Sadly, a part of the Times-Gazette content includes obituaries. Actually, it is statistically known to be the most read section of the newspaper. It is how we say our final goodbyes to those in our …
Sadly, a part of the Times-Gazette content includes obituaries. Actually, it is statistically known to be the most read section of the newspaper. It is how we say our final goodbyes to those in our community.
I was looking over Tuesday’s T-G obits and some things seemed to strike me a little deeper, perhaps than it has for a while. I realized that we have lost in about 2 weeks some pillars/servants of this community. Let me explain about these faithful servants.
There was Don Gannon who was former owner and operator of Main Street Tire & Service Co. He passed away Sept. 3. I was moved when I read his obit about how he had served Bedford County by taking care of so many folks’ car needs, including Bedford County Sheriff’s Department, for over 30 years. I know having had mechanics in my family how hard a profession it can be, both physically and mentally.
Then, there was Bill H. May. Many of you probably knew that he was a veteran. I had the privilege of printing a story in our Bedford Life magazine last year in honor of his 95th birthday. Bill also had a meaningful career in education. He was a teacher, coach and principal. He also served with the Liberty Lions Club. His obit was long, because he was such a devoted person to the communities in which he served. May we all have such obits. He was born of 10 children in Clinton, Tenn. He was drafted his senior year of high school and would go on to serve as a rifleman in the 3rd Tank Battalion in World War II. Bill nearly gave his life for his country when he was shot during active duty. He was awarded a Purple Heart for his bravery.
We’ve also lost dear, sweet Olivia Jane Cleveland Ray, who passed on Aug. 31. Her obit sections were themed: “A time to rest” and “a time to remember.” Who could forget that lovely face—one which smiled each time we needed nursing care. She was the one always beautifully standing by her husband’s side. She was the widow of former Bedford County Mayor Eugene Ray, who passed away in 2019. Mrs. Ray sadly outlived two of her children, Christie and Cedric, who both died in a tragic accident several years ago. I know from having served in ministry that one of the hardest forms of grief comes from losing a child. Think: she lost 2 children at once. But Mrs. Ray remained as beautiful a person. She kept her faith, which was always very strong.
Part of her obit which stated: “Now, she has joined her loved ones who are already resting in the arms of Jesus.” I love that!
I was actually looking up the obituary for the late Bedford County Commissioner John Brown. And I was moved by his obituary as well. It stated: “He leaves in peace to mourn for just a short time children . . . .” (See obit in today’s T-G.)
Commissioner Brown understood the love of Jesus. Commissioner Brown was recently honored for his 40 years of service to the people of Bedford County. He represented the 8th District and served on Bedford County Board of Commissioners since 1982. He is the longest-serving current member of the commission. Brown was also an ordained minister, who most recently served as pastor of Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville; he retired last year.
For 20 years, from 1960 through 1980, he was president of the Shelbyville NAACP branch. He has worked as a Shelbyville police officer, and for Eaton Corp. in Shelbyville. A resolution signed by the state legislators recently declared that Brown “has proven himself to be wholly committed to the noble precepts of public service that have earned Tennessee recognition as the Volunteer State, and he should be specially recognized for his many years of honorable and astute service to the citizens of this State.”
About a year ago, I had the opportunity to stop by and visit with Commissioner Brown at his home. That day, we didn’t really talk about politics, much, but we talked about Jesus. We talked about life and how people could make everything so much better. He was about to give up the pastorate. That was to be difficult. I did not print a story that day. But rest assured the interview is one that will stay in my heart forever. You might say that one was between God, me and Mr. Brown.
Ironically, during the Celebration, former horse owner, trainer and exhibitor Ronald Dougan passed away. An Ohio native, he professionally served on the Tri County School Board and Athens County School Board. I don’t have to tell you how big of a commitment that was to his community. Ronald served as a bus driver here in Bedford County—also an honorable position. He owned, trained and exhibited Tennessee Walking Horses, winning several world championships. He was a member of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders’ and Exhibitors’ Association. He too served in the Lions Club and DAV.
Yes, we’ve lost some pillars of this community. But, there are those in this community who can serve, just like they did, with the love of community as their motivation.
I will end this with Ronald’s favorite saying, according to his obit, which was: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” These folks made lasting impressions on me.
Rest in peace, my friends. “It is well . . . .”