WAXAHACHIE — Described as a "key figure" and the "face of Waxahachie" by some and referred to as "Coach Ray," "Mr. Ray" and "Constable Ray" by most, recently retired Ellis County Pct. 3 Constable Jimmie Ray is a man of many trades and a friend to many.
A man, role model and icon who is now serving as a daily reminder that life and health are precious, as his health continues to decline.
Ray and his wife, Melba, moved to Waxahachie shortly after Ray took a position as a math teacher and basketball coach at Turner High School.
“I was born in Tyler and I moved here in 1961 for a coaching job. Before I moved here I was in school at Texas College in Tyler,” Ray said.
After coaching and teaching at Turner High School, Ray coached and taught at Waxahachie High School from 1970-74 where became the assistant principal in 1974 and from 1983-99 was the principal of Northside Elementary. In 2004, Ray was elected as constable and held this position until his health began deteriorating this year.
Waxahachie resident and good friend of Ray, Mendy Lovett, moved here after an incident which left her permanently disabled and in the hands of her new caretaker, Jimmy Robinson.
“When I moved here four years ago, I met Jimmie Ray at the Oaks Church because he was good friends with my Jimmy,” Lovett said. “Since we met I’ve heard so many people talk about ‘Coach Ray’ or ‘Principal Ray’ and all these other titles he’s earned from everything he has done in Waxahachie.”
In March, Ray has diagnosed with stage three renal failure which turned to stage four by April. Three months after the initial diagnosis, he suffered a stroke.
“He touched my life after I moved here four years ago. I’ve learned from this that we shouldn’t wait until things are terminal to show a person how much we love them and appreciate them,” Lovett said.
During his career, Ray had the opportunity to coach and teach a current Waxahachie City Council member and former safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1969-72, Chuck Beatty. Ray coached Beatty in basketball and football from 1962-64 at Turner High School.
“Coach was a coach, friend and mentor. Our age difference wasn’t much. He came in when I was a junior in high school, and he had just started teaching. That’s why we were so close. He treated us as equals, but we still respected him as a coach,” Beatty explained.
Under Ray’s coaching, the basketball team went to state.
“Wherever we went for basketball whether it was East Texas or somewhere in the country, we were always treated royally mainly because Coach Ray knew so many people. We would go to eat breakfast before games and he would have a whole four-course meal ready,” Beatty said.
Once he graduated, Beatty left Waxahachie and wouldn’t return until the end of his football career.
“Coach and I remained close over the years. I was gone for awhile, and when I came back to town, he was one of the first people to welcome me back to town,” Beatty said. “We had such a good time together because like I said, the age difference wasn’t that great so we could relate to each other more.”
Beatty shared that his coach has always been a tremendous support to him throughout life and that he has returned the favor.
“I respect him as a coach and a mentor. He helped us as young men to grow,” Beatty said.
Ray described himself as a "disciplinary" and someone who pushed students to their limits so they would do better.
“When I first came here, Turner High School was a jungle, and I believed in discipline, and it made a difference,” Ray said.
Because of his motivational push to keep his students in line, his students and fellow community members remember him for all the good he has done.
“Jimmie Ray has told us stories of the past and said he pushed the kids of Waxahachie to be all the could be. Some of the kids he coached ended up playing for the NFL and others turned out to be wonderful people,” Lovett said. “He is a very humble man. People that I met over my four years here have all told me how much Jimmie has helped them out.”
Jimmy Robinson, a Waxahachie native and Lovett's caretaker, has known Ray for around 12 years and was great friends with his deceased son Sherard Ray. Because of Robinson’s connection with Sherard, he met Ray.
“Jimmie just knows so many people from everywhere. When Churches Chicken opened in Waxahachie, Jimmie brought in Harvey Martin from the Dallas Cowboys to the grand opening. He and Harvey went to college together. He is really good friends with Charles Greene, the 'Mean Joe Green,' who is one of the best defensive players that played for the Pittsburgh Steelers,” Robinson said.
To add to his list of titles, Ray and his wife own the Ray Thomas Funeral Home in Ennis, which they purchased many years ago.
“I’ve done a lot in my lifetime. I’ll put it that way. I met and was able to help so many people through their tough times because of the funeral home,” Ray said.
His passion to help people shined through as he helped those going through hard times at the funeral home, as well as his time as a constable in town.
“My favorite part about being a Constable was helping people. That’s when I had a chance to help a lot of people. They move into town, you meet them and help them and they don’t ever forget them,” Ray explained.
Director of Student and Campus Services for WISD and former colleague Mike Morgan has also known Ray for years.
“As a teacher, coach and administrator, he was a people person. He didn’t just do the job. He lived it. He knew the people he was working with and knew their background and that attributed to his success,” Morgan said. “He cared about people. When you talk about the last 30 or 40 years for WISD he was a key figure. Everyone knew him.”
Lovett and Robinson shared that Jimmie and Melba’s friendship means the world to them and that they are blessed to know them.
“Jimmie Ray is Waxahachie. He is the face that I see when I think of this town. He has given his life to helping others, showing love and guidance. He never thinks of himself, only others. We love Jimmie and he has touched my heart,” Lovett said.
Ray concluded by describing his "big love" for Waxahachie and all that is in it.
“I love the people, WISD athletics and everything here. I loved serving everyone and I do all of this from my heart. People may have liked me, but I enjoyed serving, leading, coaching and teaching more than anything,” Ray said.
With a wish to make sure Ray knows how special he is to the community, Lovett stressed that we should always take a moment to reflect on our loved ones because we don’t know when they will face issues.
“It’s so nice to have a friend like him for years and years, we don’t need to forget people like that,” Lovett said.
Kelsey Poynor, @KPoynor_WDL