Sept. 18, 1931 - Dec. 6, 2013
FULTON, Ill. — 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 4H 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 Ray 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 masters 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. Mr. Ray 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, Am vets, Honor Flight Committee, High Twelve, Shriners, and recently was awarded a pin to celebrate sixty years as a member of the Murray Masonic Lodge. He has supported St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, been an active member of the Clinton Parkinson’s Support Group, 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 and mother Hallie Cherry Ray Barnett, brothers Carl and Houston Ray, and nephew Joseph Ray.
A celebration of Ben’s Life will be held at the Presbyterian Church, 311 N. Ninth Street, in Fulton from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 12. 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.
To leave an online condolence visit mcdonaldfuneralhomes.com.
Death date: Dec. 6, 2013