Fundraiser set for Saturday for Ray family

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 26, 2010

NATCHEZ — Adams County Search and Rescue is coordinating a fundraiser Saturday for Eddie and Sherrie Ray, after the unexpected death of their son, Claude.

Spaghetti dinners will be sold for $7 beginning at 11 a.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall, on the corner of State and Union streets. The Ray family will be in attendance

Claude, 20, died in his sleep Feb. 20 of Marfan syndrome, an inherited connective tissue disorder that causes the major arteries of the heart, including the aorta, to be weakened, said Ricky Warren, a friend of the family.

Warren said Claude was healthy Friday night, the night before his death.

“We had a fish fry at the Knights of Columbus Hall,” he said. “He was his normal self, going from person to person talking to them.”

Claude had been the perfect picture of health, Warren said.

“Besides the common cold, which everyone gets, I never knew a day in his life where he was sick,” he said.

Burial services for Claude were Wednesday. He died with no insurance, Warren said.

Locals remember Claude for his dedication to the community. As a member of the Adams County Search and Rescue and a volunteer firefighter, Claude always put others first, said Stan Owens, Adams County fire coordinator.

When Foster Mound Volunteer Fire Department Chief Eddie Ray received a call, Claude would often go and perform odd jobs on the fire scenes with his father, until he turned 18.

“When he turned 18, we gave him his own fire gear and that made his day,” Owens said. “If you needed something done, he was there 15 minutes before you asked him to be there.”

Claude lived for firefighting and the search and rescue team, Owens said.

“Every time the Mississippi River got high, C was on the boat doing River Patrols,” Owens said.

With the Boy Scouts, Claude had shown the same level of dedication, said Warren, who interviewed Claude for his Eagle Scout Badge when he was 16.

“Anytime I needed help with a scout project, C was the first to show up,” he said. “Even though he was not a member of my troop, he was always willing to help.”

To earn the rank of Eagle Scout, Claude did landscaping at the Community Chapel Church of God and cleaned the playground at the Sunshine Shelter.

Owens and Warren both said Ray would have a smile for you if you went into Natchez Market No. 1, where he worked for four years.

“He had some kind of a radar,” Owens said. “He was going to find you.”

“He had an infectious smile,” Warren said.

Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield said Claude would often come and talk to him about his 21st birthday, when he could become a deputy.

“He was a passionate young man,” Mayfield said. “Claude was a very good person and he would have made a great deputy.”

Mayfield, who worked in youth court for 6 years, said Claude was a person who should be held up as an example to other youths.

“You expect kids to learn from you, but we learned things from Claude,” Owens said. “And that is a reflection on Eddie and Sherrie too, and how they raised him.”

The dinners will feature spaghetti, bread, salad and some type of desert. Owens said the dinners will be available to take out, but they would also provide dining space upstairs.

Monetary donations to the family can be made to the Adams County Search and Rescue, P.O. Box 805, Natchez, 39121 with Claude Ray in the memo.