During World War II, Ray Church scavenged abandoned tanks and combat sites for mechanical parts, weapons and ammunition.
The lifelong Wellington resident, who died Dec. 23, 2009, at age 91, adapted odds and ends from his collection of junk to maintain or improve the 176th Field Artillery Battalion’s communications system and weaponry.
His ingenuity and inability to throw away anything useful led to his receiving the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious while serving in France during World War II.
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“We had run out of batteries and parts,” Ray told a Chronicle-Telegram reporter in the 1950s about the honor. “If we had had to wait for the parts to come through regular channels, some of the guns would have been out of action for a long time. ... I had to improvise a lot, but that equipment always kept our communication system in order.”
Ray didn’t say much about his wartime service to his children, Janet Dawson and Chuck Church.
“You went, you did your duty, you went home and put your medals away,” Janet said, explaining her father’s philosophy. “Medals weren’t important. You just did the best you could.”
|The Dash Between:|
About this feature
|The dates of birth and death that appear like bookends on a tombstone do not matter as much as the dash between those dates: The life that a person lived.|
The Dash Between is an obituary feature written by Alana Baranick about regular folks from Lorain County and adjacent areas. Baranick wrote her first obit in 1985 when she was a reporter for The Chronicle. She wrote obituaries for Cleveland’s Plain Dealer from 1992 through 2008.
She is the chief author of “Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers” and director of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers. She won the 2005 American Society of Newspaper Editors Distinguished Writing Award in the Obituary category.
Today, Alana Baranick examines The Dash Between Oct. 9, 1918, when Raymond Stone Church was born at home in Wellington, and Dec. 23, 2009, when the past commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6941 died at age 91.
The Dash Between is scheduled to appear in The Chronicle every other Sunday.
To suggest a story or make a comment, contact Baranick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ray was born Oct. 9, 1918, in Wellington, the second youngest of four siblings whose parents ran a novelty store, built picture frames and later ran an upholstery business.
Before graduating from Wellington High School in 1937, Ray helped organize what is believed to have been the first 4-H Radio Club in the country.
He repaired radios in his parents’ attic before taking a job at Wellington Foundry. Although he could have cited his skills as a core maker to obtain a military deferment as an essential production worker during the war, Ray enlisted in 1943 to serve as an Army radio operator.
After the war, he continued repairing radios, serving the public and squirreling away discarded items that might be useful.
Ray serviced sound systems, scoreboards and other electronics for the Wellington schools. He mounted a portable public address system on the back of his car to use at community and school events.
“He would lug that thing up and down the bleachers in his 80s,” said Jeff Jump, Wellington athletic director. “He raised the flag during the National Anthem (at home football games). He still pulled the rope at 91. He was just a true servant to the community, the country and the school.”
When Ray noticed that some parts from an old scoreboard would work in the town hall clock or other school scoreboards, he stripped those parts for future use.
“You don’t waste anything,” his daughter explained. ““He was a heck of a pack rat. Some of the old parts are still in back of the house.”
Ray had semi-retired from his own business, Church TV and Radio, but kept fixing TVs for friends.
“He was more or less into the old TVs,” his son said. “It was getting harder and harder for him to get parts for them.”
In the late 1960s, he and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6941 campaigned for community support to restore the clock in the tower at Wellington Town Hall.
Ray helped clear pigeon carcasses and droppings from the tower so refurbishing could begin. When some hands from the original four-faced clock went missing, he stayed up all night to fashion new ones.
In the decades that followed, he climbed up the tower to change light bulbs and to reset the clock for Daylight Savings Time.
He was especially devoted to fellow veterans.
“Everybody contacted him for his knowledge of veterans’ services,” said Gil Cole, Wellington American Legion commander.
Ray explained benefits and helped fill out forms. He took ailing veterans to VA medical facilities in Cleveland and Brecksville. He visited residents of the Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky several times a week.
“Once a week, we’d play bingo with the residents,” Cole said. “They were all strangers to him, but they were all his friends.”
As the post chaplain, Ray presided over military funerals. He and another veteran were charged with taking the American flag that covered the casket, folding it and presenting it to the family.
Each Memorial Day, he planted little flags on veterans’ graves at Greenwood Cemetery and raised the flag before and after the annual parade.
When a train derailed in Wellington exactly 50 years ago on the evening of Sunday, Jan. 10, 1960, Ray and his wife, Millie, immediately packed up their kids and joined other VFW members at the VFW Hall and converted it into an overnight aid center for the survivors.
“Anything anybody needed, he was pretty much there to do it for them,” his daughter said. “Dad would tell you, he was just an ordinary man doing what anybody would do.”
Contact Alana Baranick at (216) 862-2617 or email@example.com.