Honoring a legacy of friendship
Published 9:09 am Friday, March 15, 2013
BY STEPHEN H. COWLES/CONTRIBUTING WRITER
FRANKLIN—A legacy of deep friendship continues this year through the third annual Christopher D. Ray Public Safety Memorial Scholarship.
This is a $1,000 grant offered to a high school senior intending to study some aspect of public safety at a community college, a four-year college or university or to a college student already enrolled. Public safety majors include criminal justice, though not pre-law, fire science and paramedic/emergency medicine.
Both the scholarship and fishing tournament are named in memory of Christopher D. Ray. He had been a Southampton County Sheriff’s Deputy for only a few months when he was killed in an automobile crash while responding to a house call early on Aug. 29, 2009.
“I guess I wasn’t content letting his accident be the end. I wanted something to keep his legacy alive and be active in everyone’s mind,” said childhood friend John Barksdale about why he organized the scholarship and later the fishing tournament.
“We started hanging out together starting in the second week of kindergarten and became pretty good buddies,” he said. “He was nothing but fun.”
Barksdale, 25, added they even found a way to live together while going to college. He majored in construction engineering at Virginia Tech, and Ray studied criminal justice at Radford University.
“He was a child of nature and was happiest when he was hunting or fishing,” said Chris’s mother, Anne. “Along with John and other neighborhood kids, he spent many an hour navigating the Nottoway River between our neighborhood boat ramp and the landing behind the Courtland Methodist Church.”
“As they grew up they finished each other sentences,” she continued. “They were mischief makers, but good at heart. They played baseball, fished and hunted. They were the best of friends.”
Anne Ray, who lives in Courtland, said Chris was also close to Barksdale’s stepfather, former Southampton County Sheriff Vernie Francis, and thinks that’s partly why her son went into law enforcement.
Barksdale’s idea of the scholarship and later fishing tournament met with the family’s approval. Chris’s other brothers are Kevin, 28, who serves on the scholarship committee, and Cameron, 21.
“I thought it was a really good idea and way to honor him,” said Anne Ray. “It’s important to have higher education for future law enforcement students. They get a little help along the way.”
Zach Ramsey, last year’s scholarship recipient, is a sophomore studying criminal justice at Southside Virginia Community College in Brunswick County.
Formerly of Drewryville, he knew the Rays because Anne Ray was one of his teachers at Southampton Academy, and Chris was one of his baseball coaches.
“I want to give back to my community,” said Ramsey, 19, about why he chose the field. “I’m very thankful for the scholarship. It’s helped me out a lot in my schooling.”
Storm Gray, the 2011 scholarship recipient, is majoring in criminal justice at Radford University. Gray, 20, who also said he’s good friends of the Rays, said he’s thinking about becoming a police officer or a game warden.
Applications are available at each area high school guidance office, Southampton Sheriff’s office, Paul D. Camp Community College, Franklin-Southampton Chamber of Commerce office or online from the Chamber’s website at www.fsachamber.com. Application deadline is Monday, May 13.
The fishing tournament will be Saturday, June 15 at the Hercules Boat Ramp outside Franklin. A barbecue follows at the fairgrounds. Details will be announced later.