Betty Gomez keeping husband’s legacy alive and well

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 22, 1999

DEBORAH CORRAO / L’Observateur / February 22, 1999

One of the busiest places in LaPlace this time of year is the H & R Block office at 1405 W. Airline Highway.But regular customers of the tax service business notice that the office is a little different this year. Customers are no longer greeted by thefamiliar face of Ray Gomez, who acquired the franchise in 1974 and operated it for almost 25 years.

Now there is a wall in the lobby where a picture of Ray Gomez hangs along with plaques commemorating the many awards he earned during his career with H & R Block.

Ray Gomez passed away last summer at the age of 59, leaving behind a legacy of long service to his faithful customers and big shoes to fill.

But employees there say not only are his shoes being filled, the business is in very capable hands thanks to Ray’s wife, Betty, 57, who worked side- by-side with her husband for more than three decades before his death.

“Ray always handled the front office,” says Gwen Kennedy, who’s worked at H & R Block for 20 years alongside the Gomezes. “But Betty’s alwaysbeen in the background.”Ray Gomez opened the LaPlace/Norco franchise after having served as city manager for H & R Block in New Orleans. He pioneered the H & R BlockBasic Income Tax school in the New Orleans in the fall of 1965. Classesstarted two weeks late that first year because Hurricane Betsy took the roof off of the district office where the class was held.

At that time Ray and Betty Gomez acquired the LaPlace/Norco franchise, they worked out of a 750-square-foot space. That office space hasquadrupled since then and, together with the Lutcher/Gramercy franchise Ray Gomez opened in 1983, houses 27 seasonal tax preparers along with full-time year-round staff.

Kennedy says Ray Gomez’ philosophy was the driving force behind the success of the business, which now services about 3,000 customers during the tax season.

“I never worked for an employer that had more integrity than Ray Gomez,” says Kennedy. “He set standards and made sure they were upheld. He neveraccepted less than professional behavior from employees and expected his employees to treat customers with respect.”That philosophy earned Ray Gomez many awards from H & R Block, four of them received posthumously in October.

Those awards include national recognition for having the Individual Highest Number of Points for advertising, a recognition based on the amount of advertising and articles appearing in the media.

He also received three regional awards: Superior Achievement in Print Advertising, an Award of Excellence and a Special Commendation.

After acquiring the two H & R Block franchises, Ray and Betty Gomez made tax services a real family business, according to Kennedy.

His mother served for many years as a bookkeeper, and all three of the couple’s daughters began working at an early age.

Betty Gomez says her children joke that they have worked there since they were tall enough to stand on a box behind the counter.

They’re not exaggerating. Two of them received 20-year awards from H &R Block at the awards ceremony in October.

Last June Ray and Betty Gomez were returning from a two-week trip to North Carolina when Ray, who had had four heart attacks, made several suggestions to Betty about how he wanted her to operate the business if anything happened to him.

Within 12 hours of their arrival home, another heart attack claimed Ray’s life.

Since his death Betty has implemented the suggestions he made to her on handling administrative duties at the office and is fulfilling the wishes he expressed to her on their last trip together.

Longtime employees have joined in that effort to honor the memory of Ray Gomez and are committed to helping his wife and partner to continue running the successful business.

“I work 50 percent for myself and 50 percent for Betty,” says Kennedy.

“I’m going to work here until Betty turns 65 and retires. Then I’ll retirewith her.”

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