Garner Funeral Home, Ripley, Tennessee - Ripley
305 Lake Drive P.O. Box 473
Ripley, TN 38063
(731) 635-1271
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Charles Raymond Vanness

1931 - 2017 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Charles Raymond Vanness Obituary
Lt Col Charles Raymond Vanness


Lt. Col. Charles Raymond Vanness (USAF, Ret.), aged 86, passed away May 20 after a short struggle with cancer. He is survived by his wife of 60 years Lucy, seven children, eight grandchildren, three brothers, and many nieces and nephews.

Born January 24, 1931, in Ashport, Tennessee to Milo and Montie Vanness, Raymond grew up in Lauderdale County with his sisters Louise and Mildred and his brothers Jack, Tunie, and James. Raymond left his family's farm in 1954 to enlist in the Air Force. He spent 22 years as a pilot stationed in Louisiana, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, England, and elsewhere before retiring in 1977 at the rank of lieutenant colonel. For most of his career, he flew the KC-135 "Stratotanker" conducting airborne refueling operations for the Strategic Air Command. From May 1969 to March 1970, he served in South Vietnam flying C-7A "Caribou" cargo aircraft resupplying Army and Marine forward operating bases. He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross for successfully resupplying a besieged special forces camp despite hostile enemy activity and severe weather.

In November 1956, Charley (as he became known in the Air Force) met Lucy Ellis in Shreveport, Louisiana. Six months after taking her to an Elvis concert on their first date, they married. They had three daughters and then four sons: Beth, Joan, LuAn, John, David, Philip, and Jeffrey. Their children brought them sons- and daughters-in-law: Jim, Larry, Marianne, Elizabeth, and Elisabeth. In turn, their children gave them eight grandchildren: Hank, Olivia, Grace, Dylan, Ian, Emilie, Lizzie, and Lucy.

When he retired from the Air Force, Charles moved his family to Memphis. He began his retirement by enrolling in Memphis State University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in marketing and graduated alongside his oldest daughter in 1980. He later earned an associate's degree in mechanical technology at State Technical Institute at Memphis in 1983. He worked in insurance, vermiculture, and construction before retiring again.

In their spare time, Charley and Lucy conducted genealogical research. Together they traced their family trees back to the 1600s. He also enjoyed crossword puzzles in the morning and a little bourbon at night.

Although he could entertain with a story, Charles was known as a man of few words. Instead he spoke in other ways: with the tools he used to fix anything and everything around the house, in what he would build for his children to play with, by his regular presence on school trips, by the vegetables he grew in his garden, and in the regularity with which he mowed the lawn. His voice was heard loudest in the commitment of love he gave his wife Lucy over six decades, and especially in the selfless dedication he showed to her care in his final years.

He was not known as an avid reader or a good cook. He did not accumulate as much experience changing diapers as the number of his children would indicate. His wardrobe evolved slowly, and his driving rarely met the speed limit. In no way did he consider these attributes shortcomings.

In 2013, he began building his dream house outside Millington. Built by his hands and those of his family (under his close supervision), Charles celebrated Christmas 2014 with all his children and grandchildren in the new house. In his new home, Charles focused on growing turnips, cucumbers, and strawberries on his land.

He will be missed as a husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, and friend. He was loved for the way he valued family, and those who love him will remember him as a strong, kind, determined, and quiet man capable of accomplishing anything he set his mind to.

His memorial will take place in Ripley, a place he always considered home, at Garner Funeral Home on Tuesday, May 30 with visitation at 10 a.m. and services at 11 a.m.
Published in The Commercial Appeal from May 24 to May 26, 2017
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