Rev. Raymond E. Pierson went to live with his Heavenly Father on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016. Ray was born on Nov. 2, 1921, in Kinder, LA, third from the last of eleven children, ten of whom lived into adulthood. He was born with a medical condition described as a birth delivery brain injury which caused him to have limited use of the right side of his body and his right arm and leg were noticeably shorter than the left, causing a pronounced limp. Due to this infirmity, his parents were told by the doctor that Ray would die in childhood or, if he did live longer, he would have a menial job at best and he would be mentally infirm.
His parents, Ida and Raymond (Mama and Papa to Ray), were determined that they would make him work hard and be the most that he could be. To hear Ray tell it, he had to work hard on the farm while at the same time his seven sisters doted on him. He attended grade school and high school in Kinder, but then he needed to earn a living with skills other than physical labor. While living with this family on the farm, they experienced what his family considered to be a miracle and they began attending church regularly and this contributed to Ray's calling to be a preacher later in life.
He eventually attended college, the first and only in his immediate family. While in Wilmore, KY, attending Asbury College, he met Martha Shull, who worked as a waitress at a local restaurant and lived there with her family. They married in about six months and he took her back to Cameron, LA, for his first preaching post. They had two boys. On May 29, 1950, Ray completed his Bachelor of Arts degree at Southwestern Louisiana Institute of Liberal and Technical Learning in Lafayette, LA. Then a generous man in the community offered to pay for Rays education at seminary Candler School of Theology, Emory University, in Atlanta, GA. While in Georgia, they had a daughter. Then, after he got his degree, Master of Divinity in 1954, they moved to Crowley, LA, for a preaching post and had two more children, a boy and a girl.
During his life, he witnessed the advance of horseback riding and buggies to motorized transportation to space flight; dirt roads to super highways; communication from radio to color television with a few channels and a few hours of programming a day to 24 hour daily service with hundreds of channels; the computer-age (he never did use a computer); USA presidents terms from Harding to Obama; outdoor to indoor plumbing; fireplaces to central air; and hand-cranked ringer clothes washers and line-drying to electric washer and dryers. Ray lived through the austere times of the Great Depression and through WWII, but was F4, therefore unable to serve, but he did work for a couple years at various war-related civilian posts.
He proudly experienced one child become an architect, one a physician, one an artist and one from a nurse, then a lawyer, to a judge. He also dealt with one child's emotional and mental disabilities, saddened by his fourth child's intractable illnesses and institutionalization since 1974.
He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Martha, married in 1947, and their five children: Paul Timothy (wife Judy Smith Pierson), James Marcus, Mary Kathryn Jenkins (husband Patrick Jenkins), David Leon and Rebekah Faye Pierson-Treacy (husband Ed Treacy); eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren; and sister, Grace Francis.
He was preceded in death by his brothers Earl, Gerald and Irving, and his sisters Pearl Dripps, Muriel McHenry, Eva Rauser, Ruby Neyland, Bernice Guthrey and Wanda Pierson.
He served 50 years as a minister in the Methodist Church (changed to United Methodist in the late 60s) and was able to support his large family on his Conference salary, by the largess of his congregations, by raising an annual large garden (and using child labor!) and by having an industrious wife who made healthy, home-cooked meals, canned vegetables, worked outside of the home on and off, sewed most of the family's clothes, crocheted, knitted and taught their children these same skills.
He outlived his doctors predictions and defied his physical condition and lived a good and very long life. Over his ministry, which he thoroughly enjoyed, he took his family to Cameron, Jeanerette and Crowley, LA, to Atlanta, GA, then to Indiana, serving churches in Connersville, Evansville, New Albany, Indianapolis, Sheridan and back to Indianapolis. At each church, Ray made progress in each aspect of the church, including improvements in the finances, attendance, and Conference apportionment. After the final move for his ministry was back to Indianapolis, so that Martha could continue working as a License Practical Nurse in Indianapolis, their next move was for retirement to Tennessee. By this time, all children were grown and out of the house. They both retired from Crossville, returning to their roots in the South. Ray wrote a weekly column for the Crossville Chronicle for many years. They owned three successive homes there and one in Maryville, TN. Due to infirmities of old age in their early '90s, their final move was into a nursing home in Knoxville, TN, where Martha still resides.
Bilbrey Funeral Home, Inc. (www.bilbreyfh.com) was in charge of the arrangements.
Published on December 12, 2016