James Ray Phillips of West Tisbury died on May 28 after surgery. He was 74.

Known by all as Ray, he was an honest, hardworking, happy go lucky and always wanted everyone around him to be happy, too. His unforgettable smile ensured they were. He always broke silence with laughter, whether it was appropriate or not.

He was born on Oct. 23, 1947 in Plainview, Tex., the third of Allie Marie Young and Roland T. Phillips’ five children. He grew up playing with tin can cars, walking home from school for lunch and adoring his oldest sister and best friend, Linda. In high school, he played on the football team and spent weekends working on his baby blue Ford convertible, which he took on long drives across the border.

Fresh out of school, he married his high school sweetheart Cynthia Daniels and had his first child, Misty Dawn.

At 20, he went into the Army for six years and rose to the rank of specialist second class, servicing tanks as a sheet metal worker and welder. He earned decorations in marksmanship and the National Defense Service Medal while stationed in Germany.

After the Army, he moved to New Orleans, where he worked as a chef in the French Quarter. He lived in a tiny attic apartment he called “the cloud,” filling it with beautiful plants and tanks of exotic fish.

He worked around the clock, only taking Mondays off. Those Mondays were for red beans and rice and doing laundry, the tradition of all working New Orleanians. That was, until he met Victoria — who worked with him at the restaurant — and Mondays became a great adventure day. The two fell in love over picnics in Fontainebleau Park and early morning fishing from a skiff on the intracoastal waterway at Shell Beach.

After many years of working and adventuring together; camping throughout the Smoky Mountains, Grand Tetons and their favorite, the Athabasca Glacier in Banff, Ray and Victoria had two children, the absolute joy and center of his life: Thomas Lloyd and Lonni Marie.

When the kids were ready to start school, the family moved to the Vineyard where Victoria had grown up. Done with the restaurant world, he took his passion for gardening and turned it into a living by starting a landscaping company. He called it As You Like It because he was always focused on pleasing others and making them feel welcome. Over the next 25 years, he built up clients who became dear friends.

In winters, he worked at the West Tisbury and Chilmark schools as a custodian where he was beloved by the staff and children alike. On winter evenings, he relaxed by lighting a wood fire and playing dominoes with his family.

This summer, he was looking forward to doing things that brought him joy: fishing with his son TL, taking long beach walks and drives with his daughter Lonni, game nights with family and friends, and going out for a fireman’s burger at the Agricultural Fair.

Ray is survived by his wife of 38 years, Victoria Riger Phillips; son Thomas Lloyd Phillips of Portland, Ore.; daughter Lonni Marie Phillips of Chilmark, sister Debbie Rush of Phoenix, Ariz.; and his brother Leo Phillips of Plainview, Tex.

His family will host a celebration of life on August 31; details will be announced. All are invited to join with memories and laughter. As Ray would have said, “Okay kid, take it easy. Be good. Love you. Bye-bye.”

Donations can be made to Island Food Pantry, P.O. Box 1874, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568 (islandfoodpantry.org) or when any Island children are fundraising outside Cronig’s Market, please donate a little extra cash.