Rafael “Ray” Vega
Rafael "Ray" Vega, an entrepreneur and restaurateur passed away peacefully on January 9, 2021 at the age of 86.
Ray was born on August 27, 1934 to Rafael and Maria Vega. He migrated to the US from Tijuana with his parents as a toddler. His parents had dreams of owning a restaurant in LA and were able to bring that dream to fruition. Ray grew up on Olvera Street in downtown LA, around his parent's Mexican Restaurant, Café Caliente. He attended John Boroughs High School in Burbank and continued on to study Hospitality at San Francisco State University. He came back to LA at the age of 22 to find a way to support his parents who had recently been forced to close their restaurant. In 1956, with the promise of a few months free rent and while working a few other side jobs, Ray opened Casa Vega in Sherman Oaks on Ventura Blvd. Ray's father was the first bartender and his mother was welcoming guests while keeping an eye on the family recipes coming out of the kitchen. He was very active in local LA politics serving on the LA County Housing Authority and as Commissioner of Dept. of Public Social Service in the late 1960's-1970's. In 1976, Ray married Charleen, a beautiful woman whom he had met at Casa Vega.
As a young businessman, Ray was successful in obtaining government contracts for dining services all around California and Nevada. One of those contracts, Nellis Air Force Base, took Ray and Charleen to Las Vegas in 1978. Las Vegas opened lot of opportunities with Ray's love of work, his vision, creativity, drive and willingness to take risks. Ray started and owned numerous successful businesses in Las Vegas under VEGA Enterprise: VEGA Vending; VEGA Wholesale; VEGA Bar & Concessions; VEGA Foods; VEGA Marketing; VEGA Spirits; VEGA Dairy and many others, along with buildings, warehouses and other business ventures. Ray loved being a businessman and was a trailblazer within the Latino Community. In 1996, Ray was appointed Honorary Counsel General to Mexico for the State of Nevada. He sat on more hospital (Providence Hospitals) and bank boards than we can list.
After retiring from Las Vega, Ray was happy to move back to his hometown of Los Angeles, to spend his days near his first (and favorite) business, Casa Vega. He never missed a day of work. Ray took immense pride in teaching his daughter, Christina "Christy" Vega, how to navigate in business and keep his legacy alive. This year, Casa Vega Restaurant celebrates 65 years of business in Ray's honor.
Ray is survived by his wife, Charleen; his children Kelly, Robbie and Christina; and his grandchildren Anthony, Taylor, Emillee, Lizzy, Jackson, Rafael Palmer, Ryan' Jr., Cruz and Mia.
Services are pending.
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