"Today is my 60th birthday," she said. "And this is how I wanted to celebrate it."
She did, with tens of thousands of others who gathered both to pay homage to that critical passage of the civil rights movement and also to press the nation to recognize that the fight for equality has yet to be won.
Among the day's speakers were Eric Holder, the nation's first black attorney general; Rep. John Lewis (D., Ga.), the only surviving speaker from the 1963 March on Washington; and Martin Luther King III, the older son of the slain civil rights leader.
Ray knew that, however passionate and rousing, none of the speeches she would hear was likely to echo through hearts and history as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s tour de force did 50 years ago.
And none of the speakers, however inspired and inspiring, was likely to capture her spirit and soul quite the way he did.
Yet the day, one of remembrance and resolve, would surely take a prominent place in the memories of those who were there Saturday.
It certainly would for Philadelphia community activist Novella Williams, who had been among the 250,000 who participated in the original march. Now 86 and unable to walk, Williams was determined to attend.
Her daughter, Pam, pushed her in a wheelchair through the crowds. "I was here 50 years ago!" Pam said, laughing. "She was pregnant with me at the last march!"
By 7:30 a.m., Ray's husband, Bruce Koch, and their daughter, Nina, had joined her on the street, as marchers fell into line and began a leisurely procession past the White House and along the reflecting pool before spilling onto the lawns of the National Mall.
"This march may not have the same impact as the one 50 years ago," Ray said. "But it's going to remind our politicians and lawmakers that there are still a lot of people who care enough to get up early on a Saturday morning and protest. They will see we can be organized and unified."
Ray was not allowed to go to the 1963 event, she said, because her mother, who helped organize the Philadelphia contingent, was going to be too busy managing the marchers, and because her father feared there might be violence.
She remembers, however, the volunteers gathered in the family's Mount Airy living room, making protest signs.
"One said something like 'We put dogs in commercials, why not Negroes?' Because on television, there were never any black people in commercials."
For her husband, the 1963 march was far less personal.
"I was living in a little suburb of Reading," said Koch, who is white. "Probably oblivious."
Koch, chief financial officer for the Starr Restaurant Organization, recalled that when he and Ray were married 31 years ago, public attitudes toward mixed-race couples were sometimes overtly hostile.
Their children were protected from much of the racism that persists elsewhere, he said, largely because they were raised in Mount Airy, one of the most successfully integrated communities in the nation.
Nina Koch, 27, who just returned from three years teaching English in Japan, said she had felt the sting of bigotry, although it had not kept her from achieving her goals.
"A lot of people think we're past all this. That racism is dead," she said. "But it's there. It's still all over. This is a fight that needs to continue."
Few of her friends went to the march, she said, and she wondered whether the lack of buzz on social media was to blame.
"A lot of them didn't know it was happening. Or if they did, they didn't think about coming because it was framed as an anniversary."
Until her family found a patch of grass near the front of the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool, she said, it had been hard to get a sense of how large the crowd had grown.
But once they stopped and she had a chance to look out at the masses of people behind her, she said she realized the importance of what she was doing.
"That's when it hit. My nana was here 50 years ago."
For several hours, Nina sat with her parents and family friends, listening to advocates for a broad range of causes try to pump up the crowd.
They spoke of rights for African Americans and Hispanics and women and immigrants and gays and lesbians. They called for greater investment in education and political accountability. And in one of the more radical moments, one speaker accused the CIA of starting the crack cocaine epidemic in the black community.
Chants of "Jobs not jail!" and "We are empowered!" took off briefly, then quickly subsided.
Nina listened to it all, taking particular note of the speaker who said everyone seems to be waiting for a leader like King to appear again, when instead it is up to all individuals to carry their messages to those in power.
What might have seemed to some like a massive concert without the music (except for a brief appearance by Tony Bennett) struck her as evidence of how many people care deeply about a great many important issues.
"It means so much to be part of this. The day was meant to spend with family. Share the moment. And help create memories," she said.
And she had one more observation.
"The female speakers are killing it today! You can feel the energy taking over. They're representing all those women 50 years ago who weren't allowed to speak."
Contact Melissa Dribben at 215-854-2590, email@example.com, or follow @dribbenonphilly on Twitter.