My dad and his friends gunned it for Wallace Run Road, packing Green Man bait: a case of beer, a straw, some cigarettes. When they eventually found Ray, they pulled the station wagon up next to him as he walked. The driver, who said he'd met Ray once, hopped out, as my dad and the others in the car watched through the fog.
When Ray climbed into the car, my dad screamed. Can you blame him? Ray's blank face glowing off the dashboard light was like nothing he had ever seen before -- the Green Man in the flesh, just a pencil's length away.
According to York, the "Green Man" moniker came not from the rumors about him working at the power plant, but from something a little more gruesome. "His nose was basically an open wound his entire life," she said. "It would get infected quite often and that would make it turn green." (Why he's called Charlie No-Face instead of Ray No-Face remains a mystery.)
After the palpitations ceased, my dad realized he had nothing to fear. It was like meeting the boogeyman and discovering he's just a misunderstood guy who likes beer, shooting the shit, and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
"People need to understand: This was a human being, a real person. And someone who endured one of the most tragic lives I've ever encountered," said York. "Underneath it all, was this beautiful, kind man."
Recently, I pulled up photos of Ray online and showed them to my dad. He didn't say anything for a while. He just looked, and remembered. The only thing he could say, is that he was sorry he was ever scared of the man in the first place.
"I interviewed hundreds of people about Ray all over western Pennsylvania," said York. "They were mostly young men, like your father, who would go out with Ray, or pick him up and drive him around. And I wouldn't even be able to count how many of these grown men broke down in tears talking about him. A lot of them regretted the way they treated him, understandably. But so many people just cried, remembering what Ray meant to them, and what he did for them. Or just reflecting on his life, and how sad and bittersweet it actually was."
There's a photo of him posing with a woman -- maybe the only woman other than members of his family he ever touched. You could tell he was happy and that she wasn't scared. There was the young man who lost a brother in Vietnam, who credits Ray's companionship and unending empathy as a major force of positivity during his grieving period. He taught countless people who would spend long nights sitting in a car or on a porch with him about the virtue of looking past the superficial, of swallowing fear and abandoning preconceptions. He showed so many people that it was OK to be different. He actually changed lives.
"And through it all, Ray was never angry. He was never upset. He never asked 'Why me?' He kept being positive. Being genuine. And being the kind of person and friend we all wish we could be," York said. "Everyone will remember the legends, but he meant so much more, to so many people. And it really made him happy."