Joel R. Cray, Sr. died Thursday, March 1, 2012 at Memorial Hospital in Savannah. Cray was born on April 16, 1935 to the late Lesley Cray and the late Ruby Cromartie. He attended Appling County School System. Cray was a lifetime member of Rachel Baptist Church in Baxley. He won the senior citizen award in January of 2012. Joel became the devoted husband of Eva Jean Smith on Sept. 30, 1961. That love brought forth six children. He worked in the turpentine and pulpwood business for most of his public work service. After retiring from pulpwood business he worked in the Appling County School System.
In the year of 1970 Joel took into his home and cared for his youngest sister-in-law, Johnnie Mae (Smith) Jackson, whom he would raise until she was 17 years old at which time she got married. In 1978 he took into his fold of arms and lovingly cared for their niece, Marsha (Atwell) Mickens; giving him a grand total of five daughters.
In addition to his parents, he was also preceded in death by four brothers and two sisters.
Survivors include his wife of 50 years, Eva Jean Cray; five daughters, Veler Darcile (Warnell) Bell, Johnnie Mae (Clifton) Jackson, Mary L. Drayton, Mildred R. (Anthony) Richburg, Marsha L. (John) Mickens, all of Baxley; three sons, Joel R. Cray, Jr. of Baxley, Samuel D. Cray, Moses J. Cray, both of Atlanta; one brother, Gene Arthur (Arleta) Cray of Salisbury, Maryland; four sisters-in-law, Mary L. Hines, Pastor Billy (John) Jackson, Kathy (Henry) Ryals, all of Baxley and Mildred Miller of Soperton; five brothers-in-law, David (Rosetta) Smith of Tampa, FL, Ruben Smith, Jr. of Fort Valley, Pastor Paul E. (Marianne) Smith of Collins, Jackie (Gloria) Smith of Toy, AL, and Mitchell (Betty) Smith of Hazlehurst; one special brother-in-law, Tommy L. Jones; 15 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren; nurses of Nurse Plus, Mae Joyner, Evang. Teresa Coley, Kataya Staton, and a host of uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews also survive.
Funeral services were held Saturday, March 10 at New Life Ministries of Apostolic Faith Inc. at 98 Alfred Butler Lane in Baxley with Evangelist Shawn Holmes presiding and eulogy given by Bishop Alfred Butler. Interment followed in Rachel Baptist Church Cemetery.
Active pallbearers were Deacon Glenn Dunlap, Jackie Smith Jr., James Surrency, Jr., James Wright, Tommy L. Jones, Sr. and A. T. Wilkerson.
Honorary pallbearers were James McTier, Ruben Smith, Jr., Jackie Smith, David Smith, Paul Smith, Mitchell Smith and Robert James.
Musical selections were rendered by Renee Ryals, Minister Trenton Drayton and the choir.
Arrangements were under the direction of Baxley Funeral Home.