Ray Basques, a St. Paul native and current Maplewood resident, is concerned about the future of the economy and the rising unemployment rate. The veteran, who is disabled after getting cancer from Agent Orange in Vietnam, is trying to do something about it. He donates $1,000 a year to a scholarship at Century College in White Bear Lake, where he’s been taking classes since 2004.
His generosity comes despite the government’s attempt, he says, to cut his disability benefits from $2,600 a month to $1,300.
“It’s another challenge of my life that I have to meet head on. I can only hope that things get better sooner or later,” he says when I asked him about the economy. He spent decades as a printer before a cancerous tumor was removed in 2002. That industry, he says, is dying. And yet, that moment changed his life in a positive way, he says.
“In Vietnam, I was just glad to get out of there and I went right back into the factory (when he got back) and didn’t use my GI benefits. When my tumor was taken out in 2002, it turned my life upside down. I got benefits that allowed me to go back to college.”
He’s not planning to go back to the working world. He always loved gardening so he went back to Century for a horticulture degree and his scholarship is given to deserving students pursuing a similar degree. He’s content to take classes — he’s currently taking a class in psychology.
Times are tough all around, he acknowledges, but “this is one of the best parts of my life; this last five years have been a dream after being stuck in a factory environment,” he said.