President G&G Roofing Construction Inc.
Walter M. Shirra Sr., father of the famous Mercury, Gemini and Apollo astronaut Walter (Wally) M. Shirra Jr., once said, “You don’t raise heroes, you raise sons. And if you treat them like sons, they’ll turn out to be heroes, even if it’s just in your own eyes.”
That is the power fathers have, and in many respects, especially as one matures, those fathers become heroes to their sons and daughters as well.
Mothers often focus children inwardly, to establish their identity and personal equilibrium. Fathers, on the other hand, tend to point them outwardly, to meet challenges and find their place in the world. Meeting and understanding the challenges of life is something Raymond (Ray) Smith and his wife, Kristy, strive to do with their four children: Cheyanne, Gianna, Carmine and Aniella.
While in his early twenties, Smith started doing roofing on the weekends, along with his primary job at Kennedy Space Center. Though the work was hard, the money was good, and soon Smith moved to second shift at KSC so that he could do roofs during the day. Fast forward over a decade later, and Smith and his wife, who is the vice president and administrative director of the company, have grown G & G Roofing into the largest commercial and residential roofing company in the county, with over $20 million in annual production.
Their children range in age from eight to 20. Smith credits his parents for teaching him the principles of hard work. “My father insisted that I learn by doing. Working hard was the only option in our home and it shaped who I am today. The other side, though, was if I wanted to do something, whether it was riding four wheelers, hunting or playing hockey, he would find a way to not only do it, but he did it with me. We were by no means wealthy, and I was never spoiled, but somehow, they made a way. We still hunt together,” Smith said.
As Smith and his wife’s business grew, they were able to buy a 500-acre farm in Illinois in the heart of white-tail deer country. Not only Smith, but his oldest daughter, his son and his wife are all avid hunters — a pastime the family enjoys together along with off-shore fishing. Like his father, Smith goes out of his way to enjoy life alongside his children.
Experiencing Life Together
According to Smith, exposing your children to real life experiences builds character and independence. “When I was growing up, we worked on our own cars,” he said. “Now, I have my son change the oil in my truck and, if there is a minor repair like replacing a tail light, I have him figure out how to do it. I learned by trial and error and I want my kids to learn those problem- solving skills.”
Yet, he admits the challenge of relating to kids, who prefer relating to their iPhones more than with their parents, isn’t easy. “When my kids were young and they were so adept at using a computer or cell phone, I thought it was great. ‘Wow,’ I said, ‘They are so much smarter than I was.’ Now, I’m not so sure how great it is.”
He also realizes his family’s standard of living is a lot higher than when he was a child. “Growing up, I always understood the value of a dollar and I looked for opportunities to make money. I used to dive for golf balls at a local course and sell them for five dollars a dozen at the restaurant where my Mom worked. I want my children to have that same sense of value,” he said.
Smith and his wife are both immersed in their business. In fact, when asked, “What is your biggest challenge in business?” he candidly replied: “I love what I do, I’m passionate about it, so I don’t really look at it as a challenge.” Nevertheless, it is just as apparent that their greatest joy and their greatest achievement is their four children.
As his wife, Kristy, said about him, “Ray is a great father and a great example, who provides and works hard for his family. He takes the time to teach the kids to hunt and fish, always doing special things for them and finding the time to attend all their functions. For all he does to make us happy, we love him.”