Robert C. Ray

Published 2:29 pm Friday, October 1, 2010

Franklin – Robert Camp Ray, 92, left this earth for his heavenly reward on September 28, 2010. A lifelong Christian, he knew that because he accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and savior, he is forgiven and will spend eternity with Christ. Bob was born on November 11, 1917 to Sallie Camp Ray and Burton Justice Ray. He was raised in Franklin, VA and graduated from Franklin High School. He attended Woodberry Forest School and graduated after two post graduate years. In 1940 he graduated from Cornell University with a B.A. in History. While at Cornell he was a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity and served as its president in his senior year. It was at Cornell that Bob met and married his first wife June Adele Miller in 1940, and they had two sons. As a member of the ROTC he served as Corps Lt. Colonel and graduated with a commission in the US Army as a Second Lieutenant. He was required to spend one year on active duty and began his service in February of 1941. When war broke out in December of 1941 Bob was ordered to remain on active duty and was discharged as a Captain of Artillery in February of 1946.

During his service he attended The Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, OK. He was then ordered to England to prepare for the invasion of Europe with the 270th Field Artillery. His unit fired the largest weapons in the Army arsenal, the 240mm howitzer. Upon arrival in England he was assigned to General George S. Patton, Jr.’s Third Army. After landing at Utah Beach he proceeded through Europe participating in the break through at St. Lo, the column sent to relieve Bastogne, the Battle of the Bulge and in all of the Third Army’s campaigns as they fought their way across France, Luxembourg, Belgium and finally Germany. His unit, The Black Dragons, was the first land-based US military unit to place ordinance into Germany. During his service he began as a battery commander and was subsequently transferred to intelligence. It was for his work in intelligence as a forward observer, performing reconnaissance behind enemy lines to identify targets for his artillery unit, that he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal. His original 240mm gun, Bob’s Babe, has been restored and is located today at The Field Artillery Museum in Ft. Sill, Ok.

Upon the cessation of the war, he was discharged from the regular Army, returned home and joined the National Guard. He was the commanding officer that stood up the newly reactivated Battery B, 3rd Bn, 111th Field Artillery in Franklin, VA and remained so until he ended his military career in 1951.

After his return from the war, he and his father started Franklin Concrete Products which manufactured ready-mixed concrete, block and pipe. The company eventually grew to seven divisions in Southeastern Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina, and Bob retired in 1977. He was active in his trade associations serving as president of the Virginia Ready Mixed Concrete Association and the Virginia Concrete Masonry Association. He was also active in the Franklin Baptist Church serving as Chairman of the Board of Deacons and as a teacher in the Men’s Bible Class. Always the community leader, he saw the need for a YMCA facility in Franklin, and with his friend, Martin Pearson, started the Franklin YMCA, later to become The James L. Camp YMCA, which today is part of the South Hampton Roads YMCA and boasts the finest facility in the system. Bob served on the Board of Directors of the National YMCA for twenty five years, and until his recent retirement, he served as the Chairman of the Board of the Camp Foundation.

In 1971 Bob married his second wife, Edith Thornton Ray, and in 1977 they moved to Aspen, CO where they lived an active life until her death in 1993. In 1994, he married Anne Brooker Ray and moved to Anne’s hometown of Tampa, Fl where he resided until his death.

He is survived by his wife Anne, his two sons and their families: Richard H. Ray and his wife Cynthia Bonney Ray, granddaughters, Sallie Shepherd Ray and her fiancé Paul Williams, Katherine Cleary-Ray Osteen and her husband Gregory S. Osteen and great-grandson Logan Miller Osteen all of Virginia Beach; Robert B. Ray and his wife Cathy Breidenour Ray, granddaughter Elizabeth Justice Ray of Chandler, AZ, step-granddaughter Jenny L. Ortenzio, step-great grandson Cayden Ryder Hartman, step-grandson Jeffrey K. Pickle, all of Durango, CO; three step-daughters Sarah Vaughan Boyden and her husband Steve of Portola Valley, CA, Rebecca Anne Williams and her husband Michael Williams of Tampa, Fl and Jennifer James of Ashland, OR.

A graveside service, with military honors, will be held at the family plot in Poplar Spring Cemetery in Franklin, VA at a later date. In lieu of flowers, Bob asked that you send tokens of your love and friendship to The James L. Camp YMCA, 300 Crescent Drive, Franklin, VA 23851 or Franklin Baptist Church, 208 N. High Street, Franklin, VA. 23851

Daddy/Granddaddy/Great-Granddaddy you were bigger than life for us. We all miss you, but we know you are at peace.