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Jason Kendall Ray, who performed with the Carolina cheerleaders as the mascot Rameses, died Monday from injuries received when he was struck by an SUV Friday while walking to the hotel room in Fort Lee, N.J., where he was staying as part of the men’s basketball team’s appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Dozens of friends and family members had gathered at Hackensack University Medical Center, where Ray, 21, had been in a coma, according to news reports. Police continued to treat the incident as an accident. The vehicle driver had a New Jersey driver’s license, he stopped and tried to help Ray and called police, and he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, according to reports.
Ray, a Concord native who was scheduled to graduate with a business administration degree and a minor in religious studies, had played the mascot for three years, The Daily Tar Heel reported. The paper said he also was a member of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and had led a Bible study group for off-campus upperclassmen.
“Jason was a wonderful son, brother and friend,” said his brother, Allen. “He leaves behind a legacy of friendship, laughter, excitement for life and a genuine love for all the people he touched during his all-too-short life.”
In addition to portraying Rameses, Ray also worked on the wait staff of The Carolina Club for two years.
“Jason had many talents,” said Athletics Director Dick Baddour ’66. “Over the last several days, we have heard from so many people who said Jason went above the call of duty to brighten their days and make their child smile and laugh. He may have performed in the anonymity that comes with playing the mascot, but his life has had an overt and lasting impact on the people whose lives he touched.”
Coach Roy Williams ’72 called Ray “an engaging young man and a friend to a number of our players and managers.”
“Jason gave Rameses an energy that was unique,” said UNC cheerleading Coach Brown Walters ’97. “He embodied all of the qualities you would want in a team member. He was a tremendous ambassador of The University of North Carolina and that spirit will live on forever.”
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Jason Kendall Ray Memorial Fund, Concord Christian Church, 3101 Davidson Highway, Concord, N.C., 28027.