Funeral services for Rayful Allen Merchant of Ninnekah, OK will be held at 11:00 AM on Tuesday, February 23, 2021, at Grand Assembly of God located at 102 East Alamar Dr. Chickasha, OK with Gary Rogers officiating. Please wear a mask and ensure social distancing. In lieu of flowers contributions may be given to Fellowship of Christian Athletes or the National Rifle Association. Services will be handled by Whitt Funeral Home of Duncan, OK. Viewing will be Monday, February 22, from 5:30 to 7:00 PM.
Ray was born February 10, 1943 in Houston, TX to Benson Merchant and Mamie (Burkleo) Merchant. After a series of health battles, he passed away at his home in Ninnekah, OK during the early hours of February 12, 2021.
Ray attended school in Duncan. He was an excellent student, winning numerous awards and loved to play baseball and football graduating in 1961. Rayful attended Immanuel Baptist Church where he accepted Jesus as his Savior, never missing a Sunday service throughout his school years. He maintained his beliefs while serving the Lord daily.
He attended Central State College in Edmond, OK, obtaining his Bachelor’s and Master’s in Education and many other teaching endorsements. While he was there, he played baseball, football, was member of Sigma Tau Gamma and heavily involved in student government. Ray furthered his education attending OSU and the University of Tulsa. 1966 was a momentous year for Ray. He married the love of his life, Dotty Henry. They recently shared their 55th wedding anniversary. They moved from Bethany, OK to Nucla, CO where they both began their teaching careers, spending the next 40 years working in various school districts directly touching and impacting many of his student’s lives. Ray was the superintendent of the educational behavioral unit at Lloyd E. Rader’s Children Center, a behavioral mental health facility in Sand Springs, OK in the 1970’s. Later he was an administrator at Clyde Boyd Jr. High, Lawton High School, Waurika High School. While at Waurika, Ray was named the District 12 Outstanding Administrator of the Year 1990-1991. He then moved to Cheyenne East High School in Cheyenne, WY before returning to Oklahoma to serve as Athletic Director and Director of Student Affairs at USAO until his retirement in 2003. Ray loved his time at USAO and was especially proud of bringing baseball, a “new” sport to the university. He was instrumental in creating and helping to build the Bill Smith Baseball Field.
Ray is best remembered by former students and “adopted kids” for his booming voice carrying throughout the halls of the schools, a solid pat on the shoulder or one of his famous great big hugs. He always had his office door open to those who needed to talk or needed a word of encouragement. He and his wife often opened their home to students for “movie nights” or for students who could not make it home for the holidays. Ray and Dotty felt called to serve others sharing what they could in order to meet others needs.
From his early years throughout his life he loved playing, coaching, umpiring/refereeing and watching local teams play ball. Ray’s passions beyond sports were raising high quality birddogs, hunting and fishing with the men of his family and his best friend Norman Cox (deceased). During his retirement he loved to travel with his wife and often took his daughter and her family for extended vacations. He especially liked the vacations with his grandkids. Ray was a Rotarian and on the Urban Renewal Authority for Sand Springs. He served the ASCOG Agency on Aging on the Silver Haired Legislature, worked with the Grady County GOP and was a member of the Sons of the Confederacy.
He is survived by his wife, Dotty, of the home; son, Michael Merchant and family; daughter, Shayla and (Bull) Turner, their children, Jacob Merchant (Rachel Koomsa) and daughter Felicity, Chancey Turner, Braden Turner; brother, Royce Merchant and family; sister-in-law, Janet Srejma and family; cousins and travel buddies, Sam and Jeannie Bennett; Ron (deceased) and Carolyn Burkleo; lifelong friend, Diane Cox, her children, Jason, Chris, Amanda and their families.
Dotty and Shayla would like to express many thanks to the wonderful caregivers of Elara Caring, specifically Amanda, Nicole, Suzie, Sissy, Freda, Kevin and Angela who made his last days more comfortable.
Online condolences can be made to the family at www.whittfh.com.
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