A Life's Story
July 08, 2023
A rich life
Consultant Ray Bauschke travelled the world, spread gospel of credit unions
By: Gabrielle Piché
When Ray Bauschke first heard Fred Rose’s Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain on TV, he picked up his accordion and played the song by ear.
Pat Dennis watched him — and accompanied him — as he made music in the living room, and as he jetted across the world, diverting crises at financial institutions and lecturing at universities.
“He didn’t sit around. He was always doing things,” said Dennis, Bauschke’s longtime lover.
She keeps a white binder with hundreds of pages detailing Bauschke’s life. He wrote his story during the pandemic — it’s a book in itself, though unpublished, unlike many of Bauschke’s other works.
Open the binder and flip some pages: you’ll find his youth, beginning in 1938 on a Beausejour farm. Bauschke’s parents decided he should stay in school because his grades were high and there wasn’t enough farmland for him, his dad and his brother to work.
Flip again: Bauschke is receiving the Credit Union Council of Manitoba’s Order of Merit in 2014. He’d already managed credit unions, run a successful consulting firm — where he was scouted internationally — and lectured at Cornell University and the University of Houston.
“He was innovative, he was decisive, and… he was a very encouraging kind of person,” said John Gottfried, former interim CEO of Credit Union Central of Manitoba.
Bauschke hired Gottfried at Cambrian Credit Union (then called Cooperators) back in 1967. Gottfried had left the world of chartered banks to avoid a relocation outside of Winnipeg.
“If it wasn’t done as prescribed in the manual of routine procedure (at the banks), you didn’t change,” Gottfried said. “Ray, on the other hand, said, ‘Sure, you have an idea? Talk to me about it, and let’s try it.’”
Bauschke had trained as an accountant and had an MBA. Soon after hiring Gottfried, he left Manitoba for the Minnesota League of Credit Unions. He became their vice-president of credit union services.
A job with the Winnipeg Jets, as business manager, drew him back.
Dennis showed up at the arena in 1973, fixing to be an usherette. She was a “hockey fanatic” and needed a way to attend all the games.
Bauschke hired her.
“Our relationship was strictly professional,” he wrote in his memoir.
Professional until an end-of-season social, where Bauschke twirled Dennis around. The pair could jive, waltz and jitterbug.
“That’s how it all started,” Dennis reminisced.
Then came the dates, the dancing and the music-making.
However, their relationship was short-lived. Bauschke was fathering his three children from a prior relationship, and Dennis wanted to return to school to become a counsellor. They parted ways as she pursued her dreams.
Meantime, Bauschke worked on Manitoba’s stabilization fund and doctored many credit unions back to health. He had launched Bauschke & Associates, his consulting firm, in 1971 and stayed on for decades.
North American credit unions and governments called on Bauschke during the financial crisis of the 1980s. He also published books on credit union practices, conducted studies on credit union development and taught credit union management courses in American schools.
“He had this deep belief (in credit unions) and he wanted to spread the gospel, if you will,” said David Mortimer, Cambrian Credit Union’s president and CEO. “He was very gregarious, he was charming, he was very smart.”
And he was single. At least, he was in 2002, when a friend pestered him to call Dennis again. Bauschke picked up the phone in his office on April 29, after checking that all the staff had left.
“As soon as he said hello, I knew it was him,” Dennis said. “I would think of him all the time.”
It had been 27 years.
Dennis and Bauschke reconnected at Rae & Jerry’s Steakhouse. She sported a cast on each foot — she’d broken both — and dark circles under her eyes.
It didn’t matter.
“The spark was still there!” Bauschke wrote in his memoir.
The duo sat for three hours, making up for lost time.
“We just talked, and we looked at each other and went, ‘Well, this is amazing. All the time that’s gone by, but we basically (feel) exactly the same way,’” Dennis said. “It was… a miracle.”
She retired from her career as a school counsellor to travel the world with Bauschke. The couple canvassed and danced through Amsterdam, Italy, Greece, every Canadian province. When Bauschke travelled for work — to Hawaii, to New England — Dennis would come, touring the area with Bauschke when possible.
He handed over ownership of his consulting firm to his son Randy in 2003, and took a seat on Cambrian Credit Union’s board of directors a year later.
“(He) provided deep insights and always held us back to, ‘What is the purpose of our credit union, and where do we provide the most value back to our members and to our community?’” Mortimer said.
“That was something he always emphasized. It never got lost on him.”
Cambrian Credit Union nominated Bauschke for the prestigious Order of Merit award after Bauschke left its board in 2012.
Palm Springs, Calif., became a winter home for Bauschke and Dennis. They’d create music with friends — Dennis was a trained singer, and Bauschke played the guitar, accordion, piano and organ.
He played songs by ear. Guests danced on the patio, sipping rum that was far cheaper than the bottles sold in Canada.
Bauschke found time to assist Winnipeg’s snow leopard fund — bringing a Tibetan snow leopard to Winnipeg’s zoo — and to further a Winnipeg police program that equipped cruisers with teddy bears for incidents involving traumatized kids.
“He had tons of energy,” Dennis said. “I miss him every day. He was the love of my life… and will be forever.”
Bauschke fell ill and died, at 84 years old, in Palm Springs last March.