Maj. Rayford Warren Jeffrey died March 22, 2014, age 93. Visitation will be Wednesday, April 2, 2014, from 5–8 p.m. Funeral services will be held on Thursday at 1 p.m. at Morrison's Funeral Home in Tuscumbia, followed by interment at Barton Cemetery.
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He was born to Earl S. Jeffrey and Nina Jeffrey on Nov. 12,1920, in Town Creek, Ala.
Jeff, as he was known to his many friends, grew up the oldest son of a family of sharecroppers in Leighton, Ala. He played football for Colbert County High School from which he graduated in 1939.
In 1939 he joined the Army Air Corps as a mechanic. He later went to flight school and became one of the nation's first night fighter pilots. In World War II, he fought with distinction in North Africa and Sicily receiving the rare distinction of receiving Distinguished Flying Crosses from both the United States and Great Britain. Jeff continued his military career in what became the United States Air Force, rising to the rank of Major. He fought in Korea with one of the first Air Force units to arrive.
Maj. Jeffrey retired from the Air Force in 1965, and immediately went to work for Air America, a CIA-owned airline. Based in Thailand and Laos, he flew specialized aircraft in support and intelligence operations for 10 years.
Upon returning to the U.S. in 1975, he settled on his family's farm in Cherokee, Ala., where he enjoyed hunting, fishing, and entertaining his many friends and relatives.
Major Jeffrey was predeceased by his father, Earl S. Jeffrey, mother, Nina Jeffrey, brother, Earl M. Jeffrey and sister, Elise Owens.
He is survived by widow, Sompit Jeffrey, Tuscumbia, Ala.; sons Beau Jeffrey, St. Petersburg, Fla., and Larry Jeffrey, Arlington, Va.; stepdaughter, Rojana Schatz, Bremen, Germany: grandchildren, Michelle Renick. Gary, N.C. Jennifer Schatz, Bremen, Germany, and Luise Schatz, Bremen, Germany: sisters, Mary McMurray, Muscle Shoals, Ala., Phyllis Keel, Birmingham, Ala., and Sandra Turner, Birmingham, Ala., as well as many beloved nieces, nephews, and grandnieces and nephews.
Maj. Jeffrey was a member of the Cherokee Lion's Club, the American Legion, the Air America Association, the Military Officers Association and Mensa International. He served as the grand marshall for the 2011 Tuscumbia Veterans Day Parade.
Major Jeffrey was admired, respected, and loved by many friends around the world as well as in the local area. "Uncle Ray" served as the family patriarch and an inspiration for three generation of family, never failing to be a source of wise counsel.
He was known to be quick to laugh and slow to anger. If courage, laughter, and love are the real treasures of the earth, he was a very wealthy man.
The family wishes to express their gratitude to caregivers Brenda Williams, Glenda King, Paulette Jordon and Haley Cole who provided tender and loving care for six months. Mere words cannot express their deep gratitude for the outstanding service provided by Nurse Sara Rogers and the staff at SouthernCare Hospice. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to SouthernCare Hospice.
Morrison Funeral Home - Tuscumbia
825 N Main Street
Tuscumbia, AL 35674
Published in Florence Times Daily on Mar. 31, 2014