July 18, 2013
GLOUCESTER, Va. - Purdue Wrestling pioneer Ray Hooker passed away July 5, living to the incredible age of 107 years old. The first All-American in Purdue wrestling history, Hooker earned a spot on the podium in 1929 at 165 pounds.
"To hear of the passing of our oldest living alumnus was a sad occasion, but I consider us all lucky to share the lineage of Purdue Wrestling with Ray and to have the opportunity to celebrate his life," said Purdue wrestling head coach and fellow alumnus Scott Hinkel. "He paved the way for the rest of us to put on that Old Gold and Black and chase the dream of climbing the NCAA podium. We owe him so much."
Hooker was the NCAA runner-up in 1929, taking second place to national champion Conrad Caldwell of Oklahoma State in an overtime battle. The Boilermakers' seventh-place team finish was their first national placing in school history and remains one of just nine top-10 all-time team showings. Hooker also earned a Big Ten Championship in 1929, marking just the fourth conference champion for the Boilermakers in the first eight years of the program.
An Indiana native, Hooker was born Jan. 3, 1906 in Warren County, and grew up in Pine Village. He earned a degree in mechanical and aeronautical engineering from Purdue and was hired shortly after by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). Working closely with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Hooker went on to work on a series of impressive projects over the next 38 years, including NASA's Wallops Flight Facility and Project Mercury, and spent two years as NASA's liaison in Australia.
An adventurer throughout his life, Hooker taught himself to fly on a glider that he built with fellow young engineers at Langley, owned a series of open cockpit planes and raced sailboats on the Chesapeake Bay. He is survived by his daughter, Anne, five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. A memorial service is scheduled in his honor this Saturday, July 20, at Abingdon Episcopal Church in Gloucester, Va. Memorials may be made to the Gloucester Chapter of the American Red Cross, 6912 George Washington Hwy Yorktown, VA 23692 or to the Salvation Army, PO Box 267 Hayes, VA 23072.