MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

October 27, 2013

French by birth, Oklahoman by luck

Mother’s remarriage drastically changed his life

Ray Wise has called Muskogee home for 63 years. His life would have been vastly different had he remained in his native France.

He was born to Marie and Pierre Giuliano on April 8, 1939, in Antibes, on the French Riviera. His French name is Raymond Giuliano. To Muskogee residents, he’s simply Ray Wise, a neat guy who speaks French with an Okie accent.

Wise moved to Muskogee in 1950. His mother came to the United States on the Queen Mary. His parents divorced when he was 2, and his mother married a U.S. soldier, Larry Wise, in 1944. His stepfather worked for Swift and Co. in Muskogee until he died March 23, 2012. He was 82.

That first “visit” to the U.S. could have been traumatic for Raymond, who was only 11. He thought he was coming for a brief holiday with his mother. After a few weeks, she told him Muskogee was now his home.

“I think I cried for a couple of days,” he said.

Ray Wise was only in the sixth grade, but even then, he expressed a resilient, cheerful spirit about life’s curious twists and turns.

Because he spoke fluent French — and still does — his teacher at Sacred Heart Catholic School, Sister Stella Maria, feared that his limited English might hamper his learning. She suggested having him start school over in the second grade.

Feisty and optimistic, Wise would have none of that.

“It only took me about a year to catch up,” he said.

Meet Ray Wise

AGE: 78

HOMETOWN: Born in Antibes, France.

CAREER: Teaching, coaching; now retired but is substitute teacher in Fort Gibson High School.

EDUCATION: Central High School in Muskogee, graduated 1958; bachelor’s degree from Northeastern State University, 1962; master’s degree from NSU, 1975.

FAMILY: Wife, Pat; children, Mikel and Michelle.

HOBBIES: Woodworking, gardening, several others.

French vs. English

playing catch-up

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