Orville Ray Terry, 95, was born on July 11, 1925 in Whitehouse, Texas and was welcomed into his eternal home on Saturday evening, May 8, 2021, at Hospice of East Texas.
Ray attended Whitehouse schools and joined the US Air Force, at the age of 17, on November 24, 1942. He proudly served his country until he was honorably discharged on September 20, 1945.
He served in WWII in Europe, stationed at Horsham-St. Faith Airfield, Norwich England from January 4, 1944 until December 27, 1944 where he achieved the rank of Staff Sergeant. He was assigned to the USAAF 458th Bomb Group, 753rd Squadron, and participated in over 30 combat bombing missions above France, Germany, and Holland. His military specialty was Waist Gunner/Belly Turret Gunner on the B24 “Liberator”.
He was presented the Purple Heart on 2 separate occasions; the first, after having been shot down on his initial combat mission. He was also awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Army Air Medal with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters, and the EAME Campaign Medal with 3 Bronze campaign stars.
On January 6, 1945, he married Marie McBride. They were blessed with a son, Ronnye Ray Terry, on February 7, 1946. Ray and Marie were married for 27 years until her death on February 8, 1972.
On June 2, 1972, he and Nancy Newkirk were married. They enjoyed traveling, and often took local teens from their church on trips with them. As members of First Baptist Church in the 70s, they completely funded a building for the youth called The Lighthouse. They were the “adopted” youth directors at the time, because the teens of the church loved Ray and Nancy dearly.
Ray was an integral part of the Whitehouse community. He served on the Board of Trustees for Whitehouse ISD from 1964-1972 and was a founder of City National Bank in Whitehouse. He was a member of the Masonic Lodge for over 65 years. He and Nancy owned Terry’s Plant Farm and made many friends through that business. Ray and Nancy were selected as Mr. and Mrs. Yesteryear in 1998 due to the many contributions they made to the city of Whitehouse. They remained involved in community activities until Nancy’s death on January 18, 2006.
Ray believed a handshake was your word and he was generous to a fault. For many years, during the Christmas season, he wrapped and delivered fresh fruit baskets to area families and he bought Greenburg turkeys for over 20 families each year. As late as last fall, he was still delivering donuts regularly to the employees at the local bank, the post office, and any where else he thought a sweet treat could bring a smile.
He had a remarkable sense of humor. And his witty remarks always brought smiles and/or laughter. He was most displeased that society had moved from “breakfast, dinner, and supper” to “breakfast, lunch and dinner”. He often remarked that we had “thrown supper under the bus”.
Some years ago, a large tree fell across the bed of his truck just behind the cab. The truck was totaled, but Ray bought the salvage and continued to drive it just as it was. He said it was the first time he could just reach over and get something out of the bed. And it created conversations and friendships wherever he went when someone would ask, “What happened to your truck?” Everyone in Whitehouse knew him by that truck.
Ray was a devout Christian and never wavered in his spiritual beliefs, even when times were difficult. He truly lived and breathed the Word of God. When he became unable to attend church in person, he watched messages on Sunday morning television. He also loved good, Christian music and knew the words to most every song by The Gaithers, Ray Boltz, and The Cathedrals, among others. He knew the Bible well, having read it cover to cover numerous times. He could not only quote scriptures but could explain them as well. He encouraged every person he met to read Psalm 139. (He would be pleased if you would, too.) He said that every morning when he awoke, he asked the Lord to let him be a blessing to someone today. His life was his testimony.
Ray loved the Christmas season, and for many years his home was bathed in Christmas lights and decorations. Family after family drove through his circle drive to admire his work. A local TV station interviewed him in December 2020 about his endeavor and he was so pleased that the interview increased the number of families coming around his driveway. His yard had thousands of lights, and he left many of his interior decorations out all year long. He loved Christmas as much as any child.
Ray was predeceased by his parents, Richard Oliver (Dick) & Sallie Mae Terry; his brother, Coy Terry; Marie Terry, Nancy Terry, and his great-nephew Matthew Abel Terry.
To cherish his memory, Ray leaves behind his son Ronnye Ray Terry and wife Rhonda of Wills Point; nephews Larry D. Terry of Tyler and Mike Terry and wife Sandi of Whitehouse and great-nephew Samuel Austin Terry; four grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; close friends and helpers Tobias and Cynthia Rodriguez; and numerous other friends.
Visitation will be held at Burks-Walker-Tippet Funeral Home in Tyler on Tuesday, May 11, 2021 from 5:30-7:00 pm.
Masonic graveside service will be held on Wednesday, May 12, 2021 at 10:30 am at the Whitehouse Cemetery. Von Dawson will officiate.
Members of Bullard Lodge 785 will conduct the Masonic service. Master Andy Golube will officiate with Adam Penny, John Hendricks, Scott Lewis, Dee Merit, Doug Scruggs, Robert Scazzie, William Garcia Jr., and Jay Brooks serving as pallbearers.
Ray would be humbled by donations in his memory to the Texas Wounded Warrior Foundation, P.O. Box 130727, Tyler TX, 75713 or to The Hospice of East Texas Foundation, 4111 University Blvd., Tyler, TX 75701.