For forty years, Ray Wightman worked tirelessly to promote and support rural telephone services as the owner of the Wightman Telephone Company. His objective was to connect rural residents to their neighbours and to the wider world. As farming became more complex, he knew that farmers needed an increasingly modern and efficient system of communications.
In 1965, he was the Founding Director of the Ontario Telephone Association (later the Ontario Telecommunications Association). The OTA is an organization of the independent telephone companies of Ontario and through the OTA Ray and others lobbied the federal and provincial governments, as well as Bell Telephone, for needed improvements to telephone services across rural Ontario. In 1995, he was awarded an Honourary Life Membership in the OTA.
Ray Wightman also pioneered the burying of rural telephone wires, building a static drag plow to help with this endeavour. This was a major undertaking for the Independents, and Wightman Telephone assisted by organizing the burial of new cables for many of the companies. The result was a vastly improved, more reliable rural telephone service. Wightman Telephone moved to digital switching in 1990, and fibre optic cable has since replaced copper cable on the main lines.
Through his continual upgrading of the Wightman Telephone system, Ray Wightman has helped to reduce rural isolation and he has given the agricultural community an important tool for operating in a global economy. His sons Blair and Paul are now carrying on the business and continue their father’s emphasis on the importance of leading edge communications technology.
In September 2015,Wellington County created an Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame, Wellington County Inductees gallery. Pictured Left to Right at the induction ceremony of Ray Wightman is Ron Hattle, President of the Wellington County Historical Society; Paul Wightman, Co-Chair of Wightman; Peter Hannam, who was also inducted into the Hall of Fame; and Reg Cressman, Director of the Ontario Agriculture Hall of Fame.
2007 OAHF induction ceremony. Ray Wightman (Centre) with Hall of Fame President, John Benham (L), and Vice-President Bob Aumell (R)