Longtime Vienna Business Owner Dies at 81
Ray Arndt of Ray's Auto Body Shop died Friday
A Vienna Little League sponsor since 1965, Ray's Auto Body Shop has its office filled with hundreds of young players in their ballcaps.
A banner from the 49-year-old business can be found on fields at Madison High School.
And a Ray's Auto Body tow truck can always be spotted in the Vienna Halloween Parade.
That's because Ray Arndt, the shop's owner, insisted on "giving back to where it came from," said the shop's general manager and Arndt's longtime friend Doug Wortman.
Linda Strike, Arndt's granddaughter, said her grandfather made sure the company's charitable donations went only to local organizations.
"If he was going to give money, it was going to be Vienna-based," Strike said. "He always said he was going to give back to the community that kept him afloat all these years."
In 1963, Arndt opened Ray's Auto Body on Dominion Road, pushing a "do it right or do it over" work ethic while insisting on treating both his customers and his employees fairly, Wortman said.
"He was the best, but he wanted to be the best in the business and worked to be the best. He didn't want to half anything," said his granddaughter Linda Strike, who works in the office of Ray's Auto Body.
With a gruff exterior, Arndt led by example. Occasionally he took the time to host an impromptu cookout for not just his employees but the employees of nearby businesses, as well as anyone else who happened to stop by. He helped his workers out if money was tight and joined them in the less glamorous tasks, such as picking up trash or washing cars.
Arndt also showed a soft spot for kids in the community beyond sponsoring the sports teams.
"I've seen him help out more than a few kids who dented their fenders. He fixed them up and sent them on their way, free of charge, before mom and dad could find out," said Robert "Bubba" Glaze, a friend of Arndt's both through his family's nearby business, Vienna Glass, and as a former tow truck driver for Ray's Auto Body. "He was a tough guy, and some people were scared of him because of that, but he was very caring, very giving. ... The more he got, the more he wanted to help people, it seemed. It wasn't all about the dollar to him."
Besides a love of cars and a love of hard work, Arndt also loved his dogs. Arndt and his wife bred Shetland Sheepdogs for years.
Strike remembers visiting her grandparents throughout her childhood and having about 10 dogs to play with before they were sold, but her grandfather always had a special one he picked out and kept just for himself.
"He always had his little buddy. It was usually the runt of all of them. He preferred the smaller ones. For a long time, Tumbleweed was his favorite dog, and now it's Cricket," Strike said. "He loved, loved, loved his dogs."
But to the Vienna community, he will be remembered for his work ethic and community-oriented business practices — and he took pride in both.
"His hobbies were building cars and building houses, pretty much. He just liked work. He worked his whole life. I can think of one or two vacations he took, but that's about it," Wortman said. "He was a very good, fair man to work for."
Arndt is survived by his wife of 42 years, Joyce; sons James Arndt and Earl Robert Arndt; stepchildren Nonie Strike, Joy Ramsey and Jack Strike; sisters Margaret Kruczek and Pauline Phillips; brother Thomas Arndt; and eight grandchildren. He is predeceased by his brother Bernard Arndt and stepson Edward Strike.
A viewing is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. today at Mullins & Thompson Funeral Service in Stafford. A service will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the funeral home.