Raymond Lee McVey, 90, a longtime resident of Elgin, OR, passed away on February 8, 2019, at Good Shepherd Hospital in Hermiston, OR. A memorial service to be held at Elgin Christian Church will be scheduled at a later date, with Ray’s son-in-law, Pastor Delbert Durfee of Athena Christian Church, officiating. Inurnment will be at the family gravesite in the Elgin Cemetery. Ray requested that memorial gifts be sent to Cove Christian Camp, PO Box 3352, La Grande, OR 97850. Arrangements are being handled by Loveland Funeral Chapel, 1508 4th Street, La Grande, OR 97850.
Ray was born September 29, 1928, in Lewis, Kansas, to parents Carl A. and Edith M. (Parr) McVey. He was the second of six children. The family resided on farms near Rozel and Coldwater, Kansas, until they moved into Coldwater in 1944 so the children could live at home while attending high school. Ray was an excellent student, excelling at both academics and sports.
After graduating in 1946 as Valedictorian of his high school class, Ray worked as a ranch hand and custom wheat cutter, driving and maintaining his employer’s combine while following the harvest northward from July-October. In 1948 he worked for a natural gas company in Liberal, KS, and in 1949-50 he operated earth-moving equipment during the construction of Bonny Dam in southeastern Colorado. During his time in Liberal, he met Vanetta Marteney, and they were married September 5, 1950, in Clayton, NM.
Ray received his Army draft notice about five months after the wedding, and the newlyweds moved to Ft. Jackson, SC, where he completed basic and advanced military training. Although the Korean War was in full swing, Ray was never sent overseas. He achieved the rank of Corporal during his two years in the service.
In 1953, he received an honorable discharge, and the couple began a 2-year trek that took them from the East Coast to Idaho and Northeastern Oregon. In 1965 they purchased a farm in the foothills of the Blue Mountains near Elgin. There they remained and raised their family of five children. Ray retired in 1990 after working 29 years at Elgin’s Boise Cascade wood mill as a log scaler and timber cruiser/land surveyor.
Ray’s Christian faith directed how he lived his life. He served many years as an elder in the Elgin Christian Church and as a member of the Cove Christian Camp board of directors, and was instrumental in establishing the Imbler Christian Church. In 1986 he went to Haiti to repair and paint buildings for the Haitian Christian Mission, and in 1993 he went to Arizona to help construct hogans (dwelling units) for families served by the Navajo Indian Mission.
Ray was an accomplished whistler and enjoyed singing his favorite hymns and praise songs. Many folks commented on his fine tenor singing voice through the years. He was a longtime member of Elgin’s Rockwall Grange and worked many volunteer hours with the “Elgin 2010” a group that developed and created Elgin’s community parks: Hunaha Park, Henderson Park, and Clarence E. Witty Memorial Park. During the 1980s and 90s he also “adopted” the old cemetery on Middle Road just north of Elgin by mowing around the gravestones every summer and repairing the fence as needed. Ray’s selfless service to the community was recognized in 1998 when he was named Elgin’s Man of the Year.
In 1999, after 34 years on their farm, Ray and Vanetta moved to a house in Elgin. That September, he experienced open-heart surgery and two months later faced the terrible news that Vanetta had developed cancer. He was devastated when she passed away on September 21, 2001.
After a long period of mourning, Ray healed, and he married Rita Snyder in 2005. They divorced in 2011, about a year before it became clear that he was being affected by dementia. Ray’s children extend a special thank you to dear friends Ed and LaVeta Botz of Elgin, who welcomed him into their home during this traumatic time in his life.
In November of 2012 Ray moved to the home of his daughter Kayla in Athena and lived there until he entered a dementia care facility in 2017.
Preceding Ray in death were his parents, his wife Vanetta, and a son, Michael Dean McVey.
Ray lives on in the memories of his siblings - Leonard (Oretha) McVey of Springfield, MO; Gene (Georgia) McVey of Prairie Grove, AR; Violet Beatty of Wink, TX; Earl McVey of Arvada, CO; and Dixie Bailey of Coldwater, KS; his children - Julia (Phil) Manley and Diana (Norman) Croucher of Elgin, OR; Kayla (Delbert) Durfee of Athena, OR; and Tim (Carol) McVey of Nashville, TN; eleven grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and two step-great-grandchildren, several nieces and nephews, and a host of treasured friends.