FULTON – The soul of Ben Ray left this earth on December 6, 2013.
Ben Ray was born in Murray, Kentucky, on September 18, 1931. He was raised by his grandparents Mary and Henry Houston Ray, who enabled Ben to raise chickens, horses, and sows and enjoy activity with 4-H and Boy Scout projects. Getting serious after high school graduation, Ben pursued studies in college which prepared him to be a teacher and coach. His studies were interrupted when he fulfilled his duty and served honorably in the Army from 1952 to 1954. Ben was chosen to become a missile repairman at White Sands Proving Ground in New Mexico. These guided, but unmanned, space marvels ultimately became the basis of our nation’s space program.
Ben returned to college after his discharge, graduated, and began an enviable career in education. Beginning as a teacher of social studies and business classes, Ben also coached baseball and basketball in Marissa, Illinois. Ben continued teaching and coaching in Oak Lawn and Franklin Grove. On January 16, 1961, Ben was introduced to Virginia Orr, a teacher at Ashton High School. Ben and Virginia were married on November 25, 1961. Eventually, Ben entered the field of school administration. He was high school and junior high principal in Martinsville, Illinois, and concluded his career in Fulton, Illinois, where he was principal of the elementary and middle schools. During his tenure, Ben started the gifted program, industrial arts, home economics, art department, and the student council at the junior high level that ran from fifth to eighth grades. His credentials included bachelors and master’s degrees from Murray State University and post-graduate work at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.
At all levels of education, Ben Ray demonstrated his leadership and his ability to understand his students and motivate them to become the best they could be. He was recognized for his professional, fair, and honest administrative style. In 1981, Ben received a “Those Who Excel” award from the Illinois Board of Education. Ben’s teachers had nominated him for this honor. In 1989, Ben’s junior high staff presented him with a plaque to thank him for being “a great leader and a good friend.”
In keeping with his drive to benefit his fellow man, Ben has served his community in various ways through Lions Club, American Legion, Amvets, Honor Flight Committee, High Twelve, and Shriners. He recently was awarded a pin to celebrate 60 years as a member of the Murray Masonic Lodge. He has supported St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and has been an active member of the Clinton Parkinson’s Support Group, and a member of the Sterling Moose Lodge, IEA, and IRTA. Further, Ben Ray has deeded his body to the University of Iowa to sustain medical studies.
Ben is survived by his wife, Virginia, his children, David (Teresa) and Benita, grandsons, Tylor Gallagher, Brandon and Travis Ray, special nieces, Camille Kaulen and Val Smith, and Brazilian foreign exchange son Marcelo Branco.
He was preceded in death by his grandparents, father, Carlton Benny Ray, mother, Hallie Cherry Ray Barnett, brothers, Carl and Houston Ray, and nephew, Joseph Ray.
A celebration of life for Ben Ray will begin with a funeral service in the Fulton Presbyterian Church from 3:00 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014. The church is located at 311 North Ninth Street in Fulton, Illinois. Rev. Scott Stephan, pastor of Fulton’s Second Reformed Church, will conduct this service.
This service will be followed immediately by a gathering of friends and family from 3:30 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall within the church building.
The Presbyterian Church is handicapped accessible. There are no stairs to traverse, and valet parking will be available.
Memorials may be sent to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105; or Shriners Hospitals for Children, 2211 North Oak Park Avenue, Chicago, IL 60707.
Visit www.mcdonaldfuneralhomes.com to send condolences.