RHS grad honored as ‘Unsung Hero’
(Editor’s note: The following is reprinted with permission from The Brazosport Facts about 1975 Rockdale High School graduate Annie Ray. She is the daughter of Annie Ellison and granddaughter of Laura Mae Monroe.) Growing up, Annie Ray had three goals: be a teacher, be a preacher and have a home for foster children or work with the elderly.
Today, she is a speech communication teacher at West Columbia High School, an ordained minister and an undeniably devoted member of her community. At age 53, that leaves the West Columbia resident with two-thirds of her life goals achieved. For most that would be enough — but not for Ray.
Well on her way to having lived a fulfilled life, she still hopes to achieve her last goal — as soon as the good Lord gives her the go, she said.
“I am working on the last one — meeting the needs of the elderly,” Ray said. “But I would also love to have a couple of foster children, God willing.”
For a woman described by those who know her well as selfless and shamelessly humble, Ray is last to admit she has made a difference in hundreds of peoples’ lives.
She is, however. the first person to offer a helping hand wherever it is needed — because that’s just the way she is, said West Columbia Mayor Laurie Kincannon.
“Annie is one of the most kind, loving people I have ever had the chance of knowing,” Kincannon said. “She is enthusiastic and excited about everything she is a part of. It’s contagious.”
Kincannon has had the opportunity to work with Ray at West Columbia High School and in the community, she said.
She is a leader and an example to both students and teachers, Kincannon said.
“Teaching is Annie’s passion, and it shows in her interaction with her students and colleagues,” Kincannon said. “She is truly committed to student success, both in the classroom and the arena of life.”
As a speech teacher, she teaches them not only about public speaking, but something about themselves, she said.
Ray is the member of the faculty on the sidelines cheering on her students, and she is the teacher who literally tells them she loves them, Kincannon said.
“She’s probably one of the first people to have taught me to just be open,” Kincannon said. “She always tells me, ‘I love you, Kincannon,’ and I believe her. Every time.”
Besides being a favorite teacher to hundreds of West Columbia high school students, Ray has been involved with numerous community organizations including: the Charlie Brown Heritage Foundation, Rosenwald School Committee, the Totally Devoted Christian Workers, the Community Peace Scholarship Committee, the West Columbia museum and ALR Ministries, which she founded, Kincannon said.
Ray is the assistant pastor at Haven Chapel United Methodist Church of the Angleton circuit, where she speaks regularly to her church community. Her enthusiasm and love of the Lord is admired not only in her sermons but in her everyday life, said Kincannon.
She always is the first person you can count on to take on the extra load or be there in a time of need, said her Unsung Hero nominator, Naomi Antill-Smith of West Columbia.
Though impressed by Ray on many occasions, Smith said she was most impressed of her knowledge and ability to address a crowd when she served as mistress of ceremonies at the dedication of the Rosenwald School.
“She did an exceptional job after researching history, developing anecdotes on participants and paying tributes to individuals of groups,” Smith said. “She truly touched everyone in the audience.”
On top of the commitment she has to her community, Smith said Ray is a devoted daughter and spends countless hours taking care of her mother.
“The only thing I have ever seen Annie Ray lose patience over is a waste of time,” Smith said. “She is efficient and expects everyone else to be, so she nicely gets us back on track. I honestly have no idea how she gets so much done for so many people.”
The city of West Columbia is lucky to have a wonderful woman to help with children, schools, church and civic organizations, Smith said.
“She does nothing to draw attention to herself and never wants credit,” Smith said. “She is the most selfless individual I have ever known, and that in itself deserves to be recognized.”