IRVING, Texas - The Dallas Cowboys will pay tribute to the late Wilford "Crazy Ray" Jones, their unofficial mascot of more than 40 years, with a public memorial service at 10 a.m. (CDT) Saturday, March 24 in the Stadium Club at Texas Stadium.
Friends and fans of Crazy Ray and the Cowboys are welcome to attend Saturday's service, which is open to the general public. The Texas Stadium parking lot will open at 9 a.m., and fans will be asked to enter the parking lot located at the Gate 1 parking entrance.
Admission to the Stadium Club will be accessible at Gate 10, next to the statue of Coach Tom Landry.
Ray, 76, died Saturday morning after battling various illnesses over the years. He was a beloved icon since the Cowboys' early days, cheering the franchise on in full western wear.
The Cowboys also announced Tuesday that Ray will be honored at a 2007 regular-season home game at Texas Stadium next fall. A tribute to the team's most famous fan will be presented, and the organization will honor Ray's wife Mattie in an on-field ceremony.
The Cowboys' schedule is expected to be released within the next few weeks.
Over the years, Crazy Ray entertained Cowboys fans at Texas Stadium in his western-style get-up, complete with six-shooters in his holster, a cowboy hat and at times, galloping along with one of those stick ponies. He became as recognizable as the blue star on the Cowboys helmet, the hole in the roof and the Hail Mary.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Mattie and the Jones family," said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, making reference to Crazy Ray's wife Mattie of 53 years. "This is a sad day for anyone who is a follower of the Dallas Cowboys. Ray was the most dedicated, entertaining and passionate of Cowboys fans.
"He touched thousands of lives and generations of football fans. He will remain an important part of this team's heritage and family for as long as fans go to Cowboys games and feel his spirit."
Jerry Jones is not given to hyperbole when talking of Crazy Ray's national fame. He has a spot in the fans' wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, and in the hearts of Cowboys fans worldwide, all recognizing his patented whistle and the magic tricks he would perform while interacting with fans on the sideline of games. It was nothing to see Crazy Ray sparring with the Redskins' mascot in the end zone when those two NFC East rivals would play, no matter if the game was played at Texas Stadium or RFK Stadium in the nation's capital.
Ray, known to some as "Whistling Ray" for the high-pitched shrill his whistle produced, also delighted fans with the quick balloon figurines he twisted together while prowling the Texas Stadium sidelines.
The family will hold a private funeral ceremony on Thursday, and a public memorial will be held Saturday for fans to pay their final respects.
In recent months, fans showed how much they appreciated Crazy Ray over the years, helping the Joneses in various forms and fashions with charitable gestures. When the family car was stolen and found trashed, a local dealership anonymously donated the couple a car.
Then there was the house they had lived in for nearly 30 years. It was in need of total renovation. But Ray and Mattie had little money, Ray having spent a spell of time in a nursing home after his last stroke. They could not pay their bills. Utilities had been turned off.
But thanks to friend and neighbor Wayne Walker, director of video productions at Dallas Theological Seminary, who set up a charitable Web site to help the Joneses, along with a disabled veterans association program (Ray served in the Korean War) which aided with the renovation of the home, Crazy Ray and Mattie were able to move back into their home on Nov. 14 of this past year.
Many of the appliances were donated by local businesses.
Walker was quoted in a recent Dallas Observer story written by Richie Whitt, "He's such a kind, wonderful man. How can you not want to help him. I think we'd all agree he's earned it."
Donations still can be made to help the family offset funeral costs by going to www.SaveCrazyRay.com, where 100 percent of the donations are transferred directly into an account set up for the Joneses.
Along with wife Mattie, Ray is survived by two brothers, Paul Jones, 62, and Jerry Jones, 64, of the Dallas area; a sister, Eugenia Gibson, 78, of Atlanta; and two grandsons, Derrick Jackson, 38, and Darryl Jackson, 35. The daughter of Ray and Mattie Jones, Glenda, preceded him in death seven years ago.