Tribute to Dr. Charles Rufus “Baby Ray” Woelfel
By Christopher J. Nippy
July 20, 2023
Dr. Charles Rufus “Baby Ray” Woelfel
The greatness of a person is very difficult to eviscerate; it is indelible, it is transient and like music, its echoes permeate throughout households and the nation whence such person hails……such embodies his or her character and leaves a lasting IMPRINT on the minds and hearts of everyone, including those who for one reason or another may elect to hate or love the person. As a household named personality, and although he or she can not be compared to Jesus Christ, it can safely be said, a person who is personified by his attributes, can be spoken of as having possessed refinement and high quality of a kind that others would emulate.
In his time, LOVE, PEACE AND GENUINE FRIENDSHIP were qualities he possessed; more than these, he, unlike others always CARRIED A BRIGHT SMILE everywhere he went, even if he were STRESSED OUT and it seemed he would be broken in the FLESH……he would be torn down; he normally received DEFEAT WITH COURAGE.
Tears may not fill a pool; but like rain, it pours from people’s eyes when sadness overwhelmed them………some people are broken in SPIRIT, while others endure the pain inspite of the hurt experienced; and death over drives a person composure into serious grief and sadness is visibly seen on the faces of those who mourn for a person who has transitioned beyond Earth’s plain! Such is ongoing for those of us who knew Dr. Woelfel!
The subject person of whom I write was first known by me in the early 1960s, when he, his mother and two brothers; his brother next to him Quashie, was also a footballer, and played for Majestic, the Invincible Eleven (I.E.) Junior Team- Quashie predeceased him; thus leaving Swedee Williams, their oldest sister, Athletha Bowen (Sister Koswa), and Mamie (Mrs. Sirleaf), the youngest of his siblings to walk with him all the days of his life. The latter, Mamie would come later after or just before they had moved from Benson Street within the vicinity of the old Department of Instructions (prior to naming it Department of Education- now Ministry of Education during President William Richard Tolbert’s Administration); it later housed the Liberian Government Books Store during the same period.
Baby Ray’s Soccer EXPLOITS were exhibited when he, Lasanah Philips, Timothy Dunbar, Freedy Dundas, John Monkey Brown, Patrick Smith, John Smith, Anthony Roberts, Quashie Fredericks and Alexander Peal (Goal Keepers), Christopher J. Nippy (Goal Keeper), Samuel Williams (late Col. of the Liberia National Police Force) and Ambassador Jallah Lasanah, late Megsima Kamara, and Francis Nimely played for St. Patrick’s High School near the University of Liberia and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He would then be scouted by Connection, JET and the Invincible Eleven and Majestic Football Teams. Being a principled minded gentleman, he first played for Connection along with the Bull Dozer- Garretson and George Sackor for a period and they later joined the Invincible Eleven (I E.), then sponsored by late Edwin Gabbidon (Hazel Boy) the team’s President and Tom Karuwa (an electronic engineer from Kenya) Team Manager. Connection would thereafter cease to exist when the TRIO gifted players made their collective exit to I. E. to make it a rival soccer team to JET, Mighty Barrolle and Youth Leaders which featured some of Liberia’s adroit and finest soccer talents, including David Momo (Goal Keeper), Christopher J. Nippy (Goal Keeper), Gideon Gadegbeku, Alosius Itoka, Samuel Burnett, Samuel Kumeh, late Coach Philip Robinson and the “Hero,” Philips Roberts also of St. Patrick’s High School and JET; in later years, I also played for JET and I. E., prior to joining Mighty Barrolle.
This period elevated Liberia’s Football with Charles Paddee, Speedy, Woelfel- Baby Ray as he was affectionately known; in later years, he would elevate himself through the academia, becoming an Agriculturist and perfecting such gift to acquiring a terminal and acclaimed status as a PhD in the SCIENCE OF THE SOIL AND TREES-FORESTRY FROM THE PRESTIGEOUS SYRECCUSE UNIVERSITY IN the State of Connecticut, the United States of America.
Please forgive me! I inadvertently left out 18-Yards Marr Sarr, Jackson Weah, Corner Arthur Wisseh, J. G. Daniels, Wanibo Toe, Patrick Forkay Nippy, James Gittens, and James Tisdell (both of them) played with John Monkey Brown, Jackson Weah with GBEZON IMPREGNABLE ELEVEN (GIE). It was GIE that morphed to “MIGHTY BARROLLE.”
I vividly recall in 1972, when before leaving to further his education abroad, this selfless soul was a member of the Liberia Football Team-Lone Star during the 2nd Edition of the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF’S) Tournament which convened in the Republic of Ghana; Baby Ray played in his famous jersey number 6. Paddee would thereafter depart for the United States to further his education. He subsequently returned to serve as President of his beloved Mighty Barrolle and led the team to several victories, including the “FAMOUS WHO OWNS THE LAND,” thereby continuing the winning record of the team.
It should also be noted, that he taught Agriculture and Forestry as a “Professor” at the University of Liberia, where he received his undergrad degree for a number of years, and also taught in the United States.
In the United States Dr. Woelfel was a Pioneering President and Founder of his beloved Mighty Barrolle Football Team; in later years due to constant misunderstanding in the association, he called us to the home of Blanka Bowman in New Jersey, to form the Barrolle Elders Association to handle critical matters on which there were disagreement; he served with class and distinguished himself as a Legend, Luminary and Father of Mighty Barrolle in the United States.
The life of this distinguished citizen and gentleman, Professor par excellence and noble scholar, has faded before our eyes as ashes fly during a winded day……. Baby Ray like the ashes is no more! Nevertheless, I like his family and others who knew him eyes are filled with TEARS AS IT WERE, THAT OUR EYES ARE POURING WATER, which combinely, can be likened to the Sky as if it were our eyes, raining down water like in Liberia’s September’s Rainy Season, when the Rain pours unceasingly from it.
Indeed, the government of Liberia is very unmindful of the enormous contributions of the country’s ” Academic Lightening Rod,” an Astute Patriot, Scholar, Statesman, Academia Professor and distinguished Legendary, who did not only plant his FOOTPRINTS IN LIBERIA, but in the United States to impart knowledge in the form of giving back the same “KNOWLEDGE” which he received during his formation stages and up to the finite point of his earthly sojourn………yes indeed, he paid the price as a footballer never becoming SELFISH, BUT SELFLESS after reaching the zenith of academic qualification; TO LIBERIA, HE PLAYED SOCCER AND RETURNED TO THE CLASSROOM AS A TEACHER; AND WE WILL MISS HIM!
What then is a person worth, when he had given his “BEST,” BUT his nation remembers not his or her contributions? Does one gets his just reward ONLY when he or she has embezzled the country’s funds, build mansions, ascends to public posts, then he or she is remembered, or should one earn accolades and praises when he or she murdered others? Am only wondering why Dr. Charles R. Woelfel, a Legend, Patriot, Luminary, Statesman par Excellence and Distinguished Citizen was not given his Flowers during his life time, and is not getting his Flowers even in death…….Baby Ray, Josiah Johnson, Borbor Henrique Massaley Gaye, and all who wore the National Colors and defended the Liberian Flag as “True Ambassadors.” Dr. Woelfel deserves the respect of the Liberia Government by placing on the casket bearing his remains, most profoundly at his passing- The LIBERIA FLAG, and also an “OFFICIAL GAZETTE” listing his achievements to be read during his Funeral rites in Salem, North Carolina, as a way of memorializing his achievements and contributions to the State (Nation) and the people of Liberia.
Unfortunately, the government is looking elsewhere and given its ill will, does not seem to be thinking about him, as he thought about his country and people during his life time on earth. And these are some of the reasons, besides his unique character and the decent gentleman he was by giving to Liberia the strength of his mind and prowess and power of his intellectual and soccer skills, the “RAIN HAS FALLEN!”
Farewell Dr. Woelfel, Paddee, Speedy, Baby Ray!
May your soul rest in blissful peace and perpetual light shine on you!
About the Author
Mr. Christopher J. Nippy
Christopher J. Nippy is former goalkeeper of Mighty Barrolle Soccer Club; former goalkeeper of Liberia’s National Soccer Team, Lone Star; former Senior Staff at the Liberian Embassy in Washington, DC; Political and Consular officer, former Chairman of the Planning and Secretariat Committee of the Liberia Football Association (LFA) – 1990-’93; former First Secretary and Consul, Political Consul Chancery of the Embassy of Liberia, Washington, DC; former Co- chair, Expert Committee, Africa Ambassador’s Group (AA), Washington, DC and former Chair- ECOWAS Ambassador’s Group (EAG) Washington, DC. His contact information is: (240) 413-1368, [email protected]