Funeral Tribute to Ray Turner
by E. Lonnie Melashenko, Director-Speaker, Voice of Prophecy
A prince and a great man – has fallen in Israel! My friend Raymond Turner left like he lived. Quietly. Graciously. With gentle dignity. Without demands or harsh words or even a frown he surrendered himself – a tired, humble, dignified gentleman – into the waiting arms of his Savior.
Jeannie and I heard the news from Ray’s daughter Bonnie Rae House. Bonnie spoke quietly with me by telephone and simply said, “The time has come. Ray Turner, today, on the 15th of May has passed away.”
We fumble to find words to express our feelings adequately for one who meant so much to so many for nearly 100 years. Distinguished. Eloquent. World ambassador of hope for Jesus. The timber of his great big bass voice helped set the standard for excellence when he and the Crane Brothers began the Lone Star Four Quartet in 1927 in Texas. Later they were called to Los Angeles by HMS Richards and became the King’s Heralds Quartet, performing live on the Voice of Prophecy radio broadcast starting in 1936. Richards often referred to Ray as the "basso profundo in excelsis."
Ray Turner's name continues to be a household word in the homes of millions worldwide. They know his voice. They know the songs. They recognized him wherever he traveled – whether at camp meetings with HMS Richards, evangelistic meetings with Harold Richards Jr., or more recently on the “Family Reunion” musical videos taped on stage at the Will Rogers Convention Center in Ft. Worth, Texas with 100 musicians. But perhaps most memorably just a few months ago with me at the annual Retirees Convention in Keene. At my insistence he walked up on the rostrum, stood up, and sang his signature song, “When They Ring Those Golden Bells” at almost 99 years of age, accompanied by his 97-year-old wife of 75 years, Ouida Turner.
At first he couldn’t remember the words, so I stood at his side to steady him as I leaned over and coached him, singing quietly into his left ear, "There’s a land beyond the river." He instantly responded and belted out the phrase flawlessly. Long pause. So I leaned in again, “...which recalls the sweet forever.” For several phrases I helped him get further into the song. Then I felt an elbow in my ribs. It indicated, “I’m okay now, kid! Get lost!” Ray continued the song as I sat down and left him standing alone. When he finished singing, the audience rose to its feet with a thunderous standing ovation.
Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same. Ray Turner meant much to Jeannie and me when we first joined the ministry in the Southern California Conference. I was an intern assigned to do visitation for evangelistic meetings conducted by Dick Barron and Ray Turner at the California Fairgrounds. I still treasure Ray's notes for the sermon, “A Hole in the Bag,” that he preached at the Pomona Adventist Church in July, 1968.
Whenever Ray sang or preached, he wasn’t acting. He opened his heart full throttle with his passion for sharing Jesus – on fire – sometimes with tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat.
Ray Turner touched all of our lives. And we are eternally grateful. Only in heaven will he ever know how many were influenced by his gracious ways, warm friendliness, the twinkle in his eye, and his passion for integrity and fairness.
Ouida, dear – please know that our hearts entwine around yours. We treasure indelible memories. Bonnie, Arlene, and family members, it’s difficult to say “Good-bye” to those we love so dearly. Ray leaves a huge footprint. And a legacy. A legacy of hope.
So Ambassador Raymond Turner, we salute you! Good night, Ray! We’ll see you in the morning! “When They Ring Those Golden Bells!”
(Written the day of his death, Thursday, May 15, 2008)
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