Raiford family reunites

Published 9:49 pm Tuesday, November 5, 2019

From left, Annie Lee Raiford Hite Ball, 81, granddaughter of Fabius and Anise Hazel Raiford, traveled by bus all the way from upstate New York and reunited with Thelma Lowe Raiford, 96, whom she had not seen for over 50 years. — Submitted Judy Raiford Pantelides

By Dr. Judy Raiford Pantelides


Almost 150 Raiford descendants came by bus, car and plane from as far as California, Washington, Michigan and New York on Saturday, Oct. 5, to the Corinth Friends Meeting social hall to celebrate their heritage. Many others came from North Carolina and all parts of Virginia.

Family members brought mementos including cherished photos, a slide show, graduation diplomas, books and comforters to share. Some time was provided for attendees to review the displays and family research set up around the hall. Reunion organizer Dr. Judy Raiford Pantelides, together with cousins, Diane Matthews Kendall and Raiford Tucker Wilson, set up displays to show the seven children of Philip and Millie Johnson Raiford. Attendees could see their branch of the family and even add to the information if some was missing.

Everyone enjoyed the delicious potluck meal with some enjoying the beautiful day outside and the music of cousin Tommy Lowe and his family. After lunch, several tours were held with some going to Sedley to see the old homeplace and hospital location of Dr. Rufus Raiford. Others were taken to see ancestral burial grounds nearby.

Several persons and families were honored including 96-years young Thelma Lowe Raiford and Merritt Lloyd Raiford, who is 91 years young. Also recognized were the children of the late John Elmore and Lottye Branch family who had four children and numerous grandchildren in attendance.

Annie Lee Raiford Hite Ball, 81, granddaughter of Fabius and Anise Hazel Raiford, traveled by bus all the way from upstate New York and reunited with Thelma, whom she had not seen for over 50 years.

Descendants of Lemuel and Sally Fiveash Raiford, Jessica Rice Zamonis and her mother, Rebecca Shreck, traveled from the West Coast to attend the reunion and visit their family roots.

All four of the Albert Zehringer children, grandchildren of Jeremiah Johnson Raiford, were also in attendance from the Henrico area. Paula Branch, sister of Randal and Royce Branch, was there from Michigan. It was wonderful to hear more relatives share they had not seen some of these relatives for almost 50 years and were so glad they came.

Dr. Pantelides organized the last reunion that was held here at Corinth back in 2007. She was proud to learn her great-grandparents, Henry and Martha Elizabeth Raiford, and her grandfather, Kenneth Raiford, and his sister, Susie Emily Raiford Munford, were some of the 40 charter members of Corinth Friends Meeting back in 1882. She has been working on gathering family ancestral information and meeting relatives to compile an updated book about the Raiford family. William Russell Raiford, who descended through the North Carolina Raifords, and Dr. Morgan Burgess Raiford, son of Dr. Rufus Livious Raiford, organized the 1980 reunion where much family information was gathered to write the book that was completed in 1989. Thirty years have passed and so many family members have been born since then with many not included the 1989 book.

This is a huge undertaking, but Dr. Raiford Pantelides feels that with the support and assistance of so many interested family members over many years, the updated work will be exciting to read and something for all future generations to cherish.

Her late brother, William Kenneth “Bill” Raiford, also known by his email address, “civilwarbill,” worked tirelessly for many years with support from family members and folks like Bruce Saunders, Matt Harris and Tony Lowe.

We certainly plan to get together again in the fall of 2020 and look forward to staying in touch.