John Ray Pace March 18, 1927-October 26, 2021
John Ray Pace passed away on Tuesday, October 26 in Houston, Texas after ninety-four years of a life filled with accomplishment, adventure, travel, great love, good humor, and good times. To know J. was to love him, and he collected friends everywhere and from all walks of life. He was a great storyteller and a wise man. He was exceptional, cherished by his family and so many others. He will be dearly missed.
J. was born on March 18, 1927 in Dallas, Texas to Margaret and John Ray Pace. He was a beloved only child who grew up on a pedestal, always expected to accomplish great things. He did not disappoint. He graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School as most popular, most likely to succeed, and cadet commander of the Junior ROTC. He received an alternate appointment to West Point, but elected to enlist in the U.S. Navy, where he was assigned for a time on the USS Duluth as forward gunnery officer. In 1948 he graduated Magna Cum Laude from Rice University under the Navy V-12 Scholarship Program with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering.
J. joined Humble Oil and Refining Company (now Exxon Mobil Corporation) and started his career in the oil fields of South Texas. At his request, the company transferred him to Venezuela in 1954, and he went on to have a great career in the international petroleum business. He worked for Creole Petroleum Corporation (ExxonMobil affiliate in Venezuela) until he decided with two partners to form wireline engineering firm, WENSA. Baker Oil Tools ultimately purchased WENSA and transferred J. to California and later to Houston. In Houston, he was appointed to head the newly created Baker Trading Company and charged with building a market for the sale of U.S oil and gas equipment and technology in Eastern Europe, Russia, and China. In that capacity, J. was one of the first American businessmen to receive an invitation to the People’s Republic of China after President Nixon established relations with China in 1972. J. eventually decided, along with partners, to form his own company, BET Trading Company, operating principally from Beijing. For the next few years, BET Trading played a significant role in developing the Western oil, gas, and mining equipment business in China and Russia.
During his career J. was an intrepid road warrior, visiting most of the countries of the world and learning four languages. He met Fidel Castro, Deng Xiao Ping, Ronald Reagan, Georges Nicolae Ceausescu, Henry Kissinger, and many others. He had Thanksgiving dinner with George and Barbara Bush in Beijing. He was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to the U.S. National Council for U.S. China Trade. He was a guest on the McNeil Lehrer Report on National Public Television. The list goes on and on, but J. never lost his humility or his integrity.
J. married his high school sweetheart, Marjorie Green, in 1947. They had two daughters, Anne and Jane, and lived happily in Venezuela for thirteen years. J. and Margie were married until 1978. A year later, he met Joyce Race in the margarita line at a Mexican resort, and theirs has been a love story for the ages. They were married on the beach in Hawaii in 1981. During the next forty years they lived and worked in Houston, Beijing, Marbella, Keystone, San Miguel de Allende, and ultimately Rockport, where they spent many happy years. J. and Joyce shared amazing adventures and created many precious memories together.
J. is survived by Joyce, children Anne McAdams (Don), Jane Silak, Valerie Grey (Tammy), and David Grey, grandchildren Angela Silak Vargas (Rogelio), Emmy Silak, Hanna McAdams, and Hannah Grey, and great-grandchild Lea Garcia. He was predeceased by one grandchild, Laura McAdams.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Texas Maritime Museum, 1202 Navigation Circle, Rockport, Texas 78382. J. served on the Board and was a great supporter of the Maritime Museum.
A celebration of the life of John Ray Pace will be conducted at two o’clock in the afternoon on Saturday, the 6th of November, at the Charlie Marshall Funeral Home in Rockport, Texas. Immediately following the service, all are invited to a reception to be held at the home of J. and Joyce Pace at 125 Cedar Ridge Dr. in Rockport.