Dawson Creek’s sports community has lost a beloved and admired coach.
Ray House, head instructor of House Tae Kwon Do, Kickboxing and Mixed Martial Arts, passed away unexpectedly last week at the age of 56, leaving behind a legacy that will live on in the hearts of all those who had the privilege of knowing him and the opportunity to train with him.
He is survived by his two children Peter and Eden.
House, a 4th Dan black belt in Tae Kwon Do, has taught martial arts in Dawson Creek for over 25 years, and was a lead promoter of fights and exhibitions in the Peace Region.
His career in Tae Kwon Do began in Dawson Creek when he became a student of Master James Coker in the early 1970’s as a 17-year old. Taking to the sport quickly, House began instructing at 19 and ran gyms for Coker in Jacksonville, Florida. He returned to Dawson Creek in 1985 to open his own club, which has evolved over the years to become a facility open to a variety of martial arts practices, including MMA.
As a fighter, House was once a contender for a national championship, reaching the finals of the Canadian Tae Kwon Do Championships in the mid ‘80’s. But it was coaching where House shined and will be forever revered by hundreds of those that had the privilege of his tutorship.
“It was the way he [Ray] understood people,” explained Clyde House, Ray’s younger brother who instructed alongside Ray at their gym, located at the Dawson Creek Secondary School campus.
“He was able to communicate with people and pick up on what they were all about, what their character was like just by talking to them, and then knew how they needed to be treated in class,” said Clyde.
“He would instill confidence in them and they would automatically get better at the sport. He had a gift that way as most good coaches do.”
House guided many students to championship levels, training several Canadian champs, including Wade Irwin who went on to become a North American heavyweight kickboxing champion.
But as his brother points out, Ray was never about the praise and glory of winning medals, getting more satisfaction out of seeing his students develop into “good people.”
House served each student individually helping them to reach their highest potential, and was known for opening his own home, and gym to those less fortunate.
“There were times when he [Ray] would take some of those kids and let them live with him, and even put them to work at his drywall company or had them help out at the ranch,” explained Clyde.
“He would get them off the street and doing things and give them some purpose to life and train them for free. He trained a lot of kids for no money at all. A lot of these kids didn’t have anything; it was all about helping people and helping those kids to become better people.
“He cared for people, he forgave the business side of things – that was irrelevant – and he just did what he felt was right,” added Clyde.
House’s longtime friend, training partner and student, Dale Armstrong, who is a co-instructor now at House gym, said Ray was a good-hearted person that never said anything bad about anyone.
He says that House’s love, passion and respect for Tae Kwon Do, which he instilled in students, is what made him an endearing instructor.
Fred Terry, who instructs Tae Kwon Do in Pouce Coupe and trained with House under Master Coker, remembers Ray for having a trademark afro, along with being a meticulous training partner, which he passed on to others.
“He cared about the people he was teaching, he wanted people to do things right and the correct way, because everything he did, he did right,” said Terry. “I think he changed everybody that walked through his door for the better. If they didn’t want to be better they left, but everyone that stayed was better in the end because of him.”
Clyde says he hopes to honour his brother’s memory by keeping the gym open and continue to bring events to Dawson Creek. He noted that the club would go forward with its plans of hosting MMA fights in January, which will now serve as a memorial to Ray.
He said, “We want to carry on with the club, but there is no way I’ll ever fill his shoes.”