Apologies if this has already been posted here on Bruins Nation.
The greatest moment of Ray Bartlett's life was an honor bestowed upon him by the family of baseball great Jackie Robinson, his childhood friend and college teammate. They asked him to represent Robinson in the 1999 Rose Parade as a grand marshal.
He was touched to be chosen to stand in for "my friend . . . while riding down the streets of my hometown," Bartlett, who grew up in Pasadena, later recalled. "That was so special and fantastic."
Bartlett, a longtime civic leader in Pasadena, died Sunday at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood following complications from outpatient surgery, said Bob Bartlett, his son. He was 88.
In 1938, Bartlett and Robinson led the football team at what is now Pasadena City College to a state championship. At UCLA, they were among only four black players on the football team in 1939 during an era when few universities included blacks on their gridiron rosters. At both schools, they also were on the basketball, track and field, and baseball teams.
The same year Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball by joining the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, Bartlett became only the second African American to join the Pasadena Police Department, The Times reported in 1996.
Together, the athletes had sailed to Hawaii in 1941 to play semi-professional football with the Honolulu Polar Bears. At season's end, Robinson returned to California but Bartlett stayed to work in construction. Days later, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.
The next morning, Bartlett and other construction workers were brought to the harbor.
"We had to retrieve the bodies of dead American Navy men from the water," Bartlett said in a Pasadena City College biography. "I saw the USS Arizona burning in flames for days after the bombing."
A year would pass before he could return to the mainland and UCLA, where he had introduced Robinson to a fellow student, Rachel. She married Robinson, who died in 1972.
Thoughts and prayers with the Bartlett family.