Billie Marie Ray died peacefully at her home on Azalea Lane on Tuesday, December 3, 2019. She was born December 21, 1921 in the Bald Creek Community to Dr. W. L. and Nelle Byrd Bennett at her grandfather’s, Sam Byrd home, which today is called the “Purple Orchid”. In 1930 she and her family moved to Burnsville on Academy Street where she finished high school in 1939 at Burnsville High. She then continued her education at Old Asheville Normal College and then on to East Carolina University, which was a grueling fourteen hours with three close friends, Venita Robertson, Helen Ramsey, and Edith Yelton. She taught in several positions for the early years of her career and then met the love of her life, James W. Ray, and they were married on June 4, 1946. After having three children she shifted gears and worked in the family business, Ray Brothers Food Center, for twenty years. In 1972 the entire shopping center burned and she re-entered the education field to finish her career of twenty-one years as Kindergarten teacher at her home community, Bald Creek School.
Billie Marie was raised in Higgins Memorial United Methodist Church, and it was her life to work and serve in many positions. She was the oldest member of the church. She served on many community and civic organizations, and spent her entire life supporting her community. Billie Marie worked in PTO’s, Burnsville Fire Department, Burnsville Women’s Club, Retired Teachers Association, and many church and voluntary groups. Her almost 98 years were very active and she spent many hours being the best cook in the valley. She was going to be the Grand Marshall for the 2019 Burnsville Christmas Parade.
She was preceded in death by her husband of forty-two years: James W. Ray; as well as her parents; son-in-law: Phillip B. Styles; brothers: Sam in World War II, Mark and Van; and sisters: Irene and Eloise.
Surviving are her sister: Jeanne Bennett Price of Greenville, SC: daughter: Jeanne Ray Styles of the home; sons: Gary Ray (Jennie) of Greenville, SC and Jimmy Ray (Virginia) of Bolens Creek; grandchildren: Michael Ray (Robin) of Lexington, SC, Jon Ray of Burnsville, NC, Andrew Ray (Emily) of Anderson, SC, Jamie Ray (Renee) of Burnsville, NC and Holly Cooper (Blake) of Weaverville, NC; great grandchildren: Jacob, Audrey, Evan, Alex, Wallace, Sadie, Griffin, Mack and Sterling; nieces: Becky Flanders of Charleston, SC, Pat Parsons of Greenville, SC, Julia Norris and Amanda Bunny Bennett of Burnsville, and Julia Quinn of Marion, NC; and nephews: James Mickey Sholes of Roanoke, VA, Norman Ray of Asheville, NC, Dr. Mark Bennett, Jr. of Burnsville, NC (deceased) and Van Price of Greenville, SC.
A Memorial Service will be held at 1PM on Friday, December 6, 2019, at Higgins Memorial United Methodist Church. Dr. John Fowler will officiate.
The family will receive friends one hour prior to the service at the church.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Higgins Memorial UMC, P. O. Box 85, Burnsville, NC 28714.
Holcombe Brothers Funeral Home assisted the Ray family.
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