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Col. Raymond Rankin Withers, USAF (Ret)


Colonel Raymond Rankin Withers USAF (Ret.) of Melbourne, passed away peacefully on July 28, 2012. At his side was his wife, Kathleen, with their children, Carol Martig (Allen), Janice Velez, Alan Withers (Debbie), and Gary Withers (Susan). Their 13 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren visited them prior to his passing.

Ray and Kathleen's love story lasted 70 years. To learn more about them, read the final chapter in Larry King's "Love Stories of World War II" published in 2001.

Col. Withers was born August 22, 1919 in Fayette County, KY where he lived on farms until 1940. He first came to Brevard County in 1964 from the Pentagon. He retired at Patrick AFB in 1972 after 30 years service in the Army and Air Force, serving in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam conflict. His last assignment was Director of Range Support, Air Force Eastern Test Range.

He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in March 1942 at Washington, D.C. while employed as a FBI fingerprint classifier. After receiving his pilot wings and commission in 1943, he flew 106 combat missions as a fighter pilot in the 8th Air Force in England, recording four air kills against Germany. His career awards included the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit with cluster, the Distinguished Flying Cross with cluster, the Air Medal with nine clusters, the Army and Air Force Commendations Medals, the Presidential Unit Citation and numerous theater and service medals.

After WWII he was integrated into the regular Air Force. He completed a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Ohio State in 1949 and a master's degree in business administration from the University of Chicago in 1953. Colonel Withers served as a command pilot, engineer, administrator, planner and director in research and development activities for the remainder of his career at many stateside bases as well as a tour in Japan.

He was a life member of MOAA and the Order of Daedalians. He also was a member of the Air Force Association, the 8th AF Historical Society, the Indian River Colony Club, the Kentucky Colonels, the BPOE of Cynthiana, KY and well as of numerous other social and benevolent groups.

He was a life long Methodist and was a charter member of the Suntree United Methodist Church where he served on two building committees, as chairman of the trustees and as a member of the administrative council. He loved golf, wood-working, coin collecting, travel and family.

Memorial services will be at Suntree United Methodist Church, 7400 North Wickham Road, Wednesday, August 1, at 2 pm. Internment will be at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, FL.

No flowers are requested. Donations may be made to Suntree United Methodist Church Memorial Fund, Brevard Wuesthoff Hospice or .

You may sign the guestbook at www.beckmanwilliamson.com.

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Published in FLORIDA TODAY on July 31, 2012
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