“Kids are the future of our hobby.” Ray Lucas and granddaughter, Megan Gibbo (née Kaiser), in March, 2005. Photo courtesy Gary Lange.

Ray Lucas, November 20, 1947 – February 23, 2023

by Janine Banks

When you meet certain people, they make an impression on you, and you remember them long after the introduction. Ray “Kingfish” Lucas was one of those people.

The logo for Ray Lucas’s Kingfish Services promotional company.

Raymond Lucas was born in Buffalo, NY, on November 20th, 1947. I first met Ray 30 years ago in the vendor room at the 1993 Northeast Council of Aquarium Societies (NEC) Convention in Northampton, MA. Although his dedication to the hobby was obvious, it was his genuine appreciation for his friends and friends he had yet to meet that stuck with me. He was the sole proprietor of Kingfish Services, which promoted the products of several manufacturers of tropical fish food, aquarium equipment, and hobby-related periodicals. The company billed itself as “an educational and promotional company.” Ray covered it all.

Ray knew every detail about the products he displayed and, always generous with his time, tended his booth enthusiastically, explaining products to anyone who ventured into his reach. Ray’s exuberant personality made his plentiful stories captivating, and he was happy to chat about any fish-related topic with anyone and everyone. As time went on, Ray became known for his booths at conventions across the country and he often had the largest display in the room. He was proud of his success and of his longstanding support of the fishkeeping hobby, and he was adamant that children be introduced to the hobby and encouraged to keep fish. “Kids are the future of our hobby,” was his battle cry! He became a staple at conventions everywhere, was in high demand, and traveled far and wide towing his trailer that was decorated to look like an aquarium.

Just part of a typical Kingfish Services display, here at an August, 2006 aquarium show in Ohio. Photo courtesy Gary Lange.

Kingfish Services showcased many companies, often debuting new products and even new companies. He enthusiastically promoted such greats as All-Glass Aquariums, Aquarian Flake Foods, Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Inc., Python Products, San Francisco Bay Brand, Tetra, Cichlid News Magazine, The Fish Factory, Cichlid Press, Discus Hans, and many more. The many companies represented in his booth were all required to make substantial donations to the event he was attending. He came to an event not only with his display of manufacturers’ goods, but also as a respected speaker, tropical fish show judge, and auctioneer. He did whatever he could to support the hobby and the people he so dearly loved and appreciated. Ray even compiled the Calendar of Club Events for AMAZONAS magazine for many years.

Ray had a talent to connect with anyone who ventured near his booth, as seen in this photo from the 2005 American Livebearers Association convention. Photo courtesy Gary Lange.
Ray had a talent to connect with anyone who ventured near his booth, as seen in this photo from the 2005 American Livebearers Association convention. Photo courtesy Gary Lange.

Among his many accolades, he received an honorary NEC Betty Mueller Memorial lifetime achievement award in 2004. He belonged to and supported all the national clubs as well as many small clubs that endeavored to educate their members and further the aquarium hobby. His motto was “get hooked on tropical fish!”

In 2005, Ray approached me with an idea. He felt the “old guard” of the hobby needed to be brought together. “There are just so many talented aquarists out there that many people in the hobby today don’t know about. We need to bring them together again, celebrate their vast knowledge, and let them share all their past experiences with us.” It was no small task, but Ray had a plan! He was going to make it financially and logistically possible for the NEC to host them as speakers at the next convention, and so he did. Through his personal connections to a long list of manufacturers and movers and shakers in the organized hobby, he garnered support for his grand plan, and so “An Evening with the Legends” came to fruition at the NEC’s 2006 Golden Anniversary convention. Featured speakers at that event included Earl Schneider, Gene Lucas, Alan Fletcher, Dr. Albert Klee, Rosario LaCorte, Dr. Stan Weitzman, and others. Hosted by Ray, the recordings of their talks and individual interviews are now a part of the permanent collection at Gary Bagnall’s Museum of Aquarium and Pet History located in San Luis Obispo, CA, and we have Ray to thank for this precious bit of aquarium history.

Left to right: Ray Lucas, Mike Hellweg, Gary Lange, and Patrick Hartman. Photo courtesy Gary Lange, October 2006.

For all of us, time marches on and life pulls us in many directions. As a loving father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, Ray’s family was a major part of his life, and he always managed to bring them up in conversations. He retired from General Motors but never lost his love of antique automobiles and remained active in car clubs in his area. Ray gave up traveling the tropical fish show and convention circuit around 2014 with the Tropical Fish Club of Burlington’s 25th Anniversary Convention in Vermont being one of his last appearances as Kingfish Services. True to his character, however, he continued to speak at clubs, judge at shows, and attend as many events as he could and, as recently as 2021, he attended the Ohio Cichlid Association Extravaganza. The organized tropical fish hobby was in part shaped by Ray’s dedication, support, kindness, and determined personality; his efforts live on at club meetings and hobby events across the U.S. Thank you, Ray, for sharing your life and enthusiasm with us.

Memorial contributions may be made in Ray’s honor to Hospice & Palliative Care Buffalo (www.hospicebuffalo.com) or any tropical fish or antique car club.

Charley Grimes, Rosario LaCorte, and Ray Lucas. Photo courtesy Gary Lange, November 2004.

Further Reading

Raymond Lucas Obituary via Buffalo News https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/buffalonews/name/raymond-lucas-obituary?id=48460434

Ray Lucas’s Facebook Page, where family and friends have shared memories, and his Celebration of Life was live-streamed on March 4, 2023. https://www.facebook.com/ray.lucas