Rev. Raymond Epps

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Raymond Verl Epps, 85, of Crowley, Texas, passed away Wednesday, July 13, 2011, at Hospice House in Fort Worth, Texas.

His loving family surrounded him as he was welcomed into the presence of the Lord.

He was born on a farm in Bloomfield, Iowa, on May 4, 1926, to William B. and Barbara H. McCombs Epps.

Raymond graduated from Poplar Bluff, Mo., High School. Following his return from service during World War II, he completed some college in subsequent years.

In 1944, at the age of 18, Raymond was drafted into the U.S. Army, serving in the 44th Infantry Division. He was part of the Allied invasion of Germany and was later involved in searching for escaping German officers in Austria.

His platoon discovered and liberated the concentration camp Gunskirchen Lager in Austria on May 4, 1945, Raymond's 19th birthday. He was honorably discharged June 5, 1946, as a tech sergeant.

After his discharge, while working as a telegrapher for the railroad in Piedmont, Mo., he met the love of his life, Doris Prator. They were united in marriage June 23, 1948, in Piedmont.

Raymond gave his heart to the Lord at the age of 12 during a tent revival in the Poplar Bluff area. He was ordained into the gospel ministry at First Baptist Church of Marble Hill, Mo., on Aug. 29, 1959, at the age of 32.

He went on to serve as a bivocational pastor at Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church and Caledonia Baptist Church, both in Southern Illinois. He also served in these Missouri churches: Hooe Baptist Church near Oran, Tabernacle Baptist Church, Piedmont; Third Baptist Church, Poplar Bluff; First Baptist Church, Millersville; and Shawnee Hills Baptist Church, Jackson.

During his retirement from the ministry, Raymond and Doris moved to Crowley, where he most recently served as a chaplain at Crowley Nursing Rehabilitation Center and was a member of First Baptist Church.

"Brother Ray," as most of his church family knew him, was dedicated to the Lord's work and had a passionate interest in biblical "end times" prophecy.

Raymond also worked as a railroad agent 42 years with Missouri Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads. He worked in railroad depots in Chester and Cairo, Ill., as well as in Missouri towns of Piedmont, Ironton, Sikeston, Poplar Bluff and Cape Girardeau. When he first worked for Missouri Pacific Railroad, he was a telegrapher, using telegraph key to communicate between stations.

At retirement, he was using computers to handle train communications. Just before retirement he received a medal of recognition for coordinating emergency communications between trains in the Chester subdivision during a rail-car derailment.

Always known as an eternal optimist, Raymond had an infectious grin, which earned him the nickname "Grin Tater" as a child. Throughout his life, he has been a husband, family man, soldier, railroad agent, minister and friend; touching the lives and hearts of countless individuals. While he is going to be terribly missed, he will always be wonderfully remembered.

Raymond is survived by his wife of 63 years, Doris; five children, Rhonda Stephanie Epps of DeLand, Fla., Bruce Prator (Marcia) Epps of Irving, Texas, Gordon Neil (Kathy) Epps of Farmington, Mo., Rebecca Leigh (Russell) Lowe of Crowley, Eric Bradley Epps of Crowley; 13 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

Also surviving are five siblings, the Rev. James (Maxine) Epps of Springfield, Mo., William "Bill" Epps of Phoenix, the Rev. Paul E. (Jeannie) Epps of St. Louis, Joyce Johnson and Pauline Featherston of Douglas, Wyo.

He was preceded in death by his parents; and two siblings, Lewis Steven Epps and Esther Mae Tibbs.

Friends may call from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday at McCombs Funeral Home and Cremation Center in Jackson.

The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the funeral home, with the Rev. Daniel Hale officiating. Burial will be in Russell Heights Cemetery, with full military honors.

Memorials are suggested to the church libraries of either First Baptist Church, Crowley; Shawnee Hills Baptist Church, Jackson; First Baptist Church, Millersville; or the American Legion.

Online condolences may be sent to the family by visiting www.mccombsfuneralhome.com.