The following appeared in today’s edition of The Santa Rosa Press Democrat:
A memorial service will be held Friday in Santa Rosa for Ray Guanella, who along with his brother sponsored the two-time Amateur Softball Association champion Guanella Bros. fastpitch softball team.
Guanella, who suffered from lung cancer, died Friday at his Santa Rosa home. He was 77.
For 24 years, Guanella and his brother, Walt, who died in 2000, oversaw one of the most successful amateur sports dynasties in the United States, a team so intimidating that others feared to play them.
Guanella Bros., named after the two brothers’ flooring company, won Amateur Softball Association national championships in 1974 and 1991. The team also won a gold medal in the World Games in 1981 and the Gold Medal in the 1993 Sports Festival in San Antonio, TX
Walt Guanella, who is credited with starting the team, received more attention than his brother, who preferred a more low-key role. The arrangement seemed to suit them.
“They had totally different personalities, but they got along beautifully,” said Beverly Guanella, Ray’s wife.
She described her husband as an accomplished businessman who liked to tell stories, play golf and card games, and spend time with his children – five from a previous marriage and three stepchildren.
Sponsoring the softball team was another passion.
In the 24 years of Guanella Bros., the team posted a record of 1,563 wins and just 401 losses, for a .796 winning percentage. The team, which played most of its home games at Santa Rosa’s Howarth Park, became such a juggernaut that other managers were reluctant to schedule against them for fear of hurting their own chances at post-season play.
Both brothers were selected to the Hall of Honor at the softball Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City as sponsors in 1998.
“He was very proud,” Beverly Guanella said.
Ray was born in Somers, Mont., in 1927 to Louie and Lucy Guanella, who immigrated to the United States from Italy. When he was 3, the family moved to Santa Rosa, where they bought a ranch and raised chickens.
Guanella graduated from Santa Rosa High School in 1949. He worked for PG&E for a time before learning the flooring business and opening the Roberts Avenue store with his brother.
They managed the business successfully before retiring in 1997.
Guanella is survived by his wife, Beverly Guanella of Santa Rosa, and sisters Erma Bridget of San Anselmo and Rena Sieboldt of San Rafael.
He also is survived by five children: Gary Guanella of Santa Rosa, Debbie Elzey of Sebastopol, Rick Guanella of Santa Rosa, Diane Sealey of Santa Rosa and Sharon Farnsworth of Trail, Ore.
Friday’s memorial service is at 1 p.m. at St. Eugene’s Church. The family suggests memorial donations be made to Santa Rosa High School.
– Derek Moore