Also a wonderful cook, Gilly keeps a strict eye on her husband’s diet to ensure he’s fighting fit should any new health issues arise. If they do, they’ll be able to tackle them together. It also means Ray’s able to keep doing the job he loves, some 34 years after he first arrived in Summer Bay.
“It’s fair to say that I’ve got a pretty balanced diet, and that’s all thanks to Gilly,” Ray says. “There are probably three or four things I can cook, but I never get near the place.”
“Gilly enjoys cooking and I enjoy eating, so we’re a natural-born team!”
It was a vastly different story before Gilly entered the picture. Ray admits his health scare was the result of “bad living for 40 years” as he prioritised “having too much fun”.
With Gilly by his side, showering him with love and affection, Ray was able to return to Home and Away in no time after his scare – even if he had to cut down on the number of beers he enjoyed while on the occasional night out with mates.
“She was a lifesaver, and she keeps me on the straight and narrow now,” grins Ray.
While Ray’s famous alter ego Alf Stewart has enjoyed two great loves (Martha, played first by Alison Mulvaney and then by Belinda Giblin, and Ailsa, played by Judy Nunn), that life-altering romance had always eluded the actor.
Indeed, Ray was in his sixties when he fell in love with Gilly, a single mum to daughter Rebecca.
After six years of dating, the pair secretly tied the knot in 2010 in a fuss-free ceremony. It wasn’t until after that year’s TV Week Logie Awards, which saw Ray take home an overdue Gold Logie, that he revealed the happy news.
“We just went away and did it, and then gradually told a few people who mattered to us,” Ray shared with New Idea. “We’re both very happy.”
While the very private Gilly wasn’t with Ray the night of the Logie’s – “[she] would rather swallow a tonne of bricks than go!” Ray once joked – she is stepping into the spotlight to help honour Ray in this week’s episode of This Is Your Life.
Also on hand to celebrate the TV titan will be Kate Ritchie and Chris Hemsworth, as well as Ray’s surrogate mother Pat, who helped raise him after he was orphaned.
Considered a national treasure by millions of Aussies, Ray has notched up the record as the longest- continuing performer in an Australian TV role.
“I’ve got a fully reconditioned motor now, and I should be right for another 100,000 miles,” he says.
Having decided early on in his career as an actor that he wouldn’t have children because of the precarious nature of the entertainment business, Ray also “loves” that he’s got a close relationship with his stepdaughter, Rebecca, who is taking part in the This Is Your Life special alongside her mum.
“I’m a very lucky man indeed!” he beams.
This Is Your Life airs Tue. 7.30pm on Channel 7 and 7plus