Melodies From the Song of Life
“This is my story, this is my song...Praising my Savior, all the day long.” Like the verses and chorus of an anthem, the beautiful life of Mother Retha Faye Wilkerson Ray rang out resoundingly and powerfully, reverberating in our hearts as a refrain containing the sweetness of a melody that stirs the soul, profoundly moving and never forgotten. And today, we are privileged, with thanksgiving in our hearts and praise unto God upon our lips, to celebrate her legacy of love and her earthly life of 76 years.
The song of life for Mother Retha Faye Wilkerson Ray commenced when she was born in Dallas, Texas on January 21, 1946, to the parentage of the late Charlie Wilkerson and Minnie Stiggers Wilkerson. Her birth sang of hope for a brighter day and a better future for those whose lives she would later touch. Little Retha was reared in a home warmed by the love of her family, and even though times were difficult and there were many challenges growing up during the height of “Jim Crow” and racial segregation, her family’s faith in God’s provision, protection and preservation always saw them through.
She received her formal education in the Dallas Independent School District, attending the historic Lincoln High School in South Dallas from which she graduated in the Class of 1963. As a proud “Tiger,” Mother Ray retained her love for Lincoln throughout her life, and worked diligently with her alumni Class of 1963 to schedule and organize their class reunions.
She began her professional career in optics at Omega Optical, where she was employed for a number of years. She then transitioned to the insurance industry and was employed by Allstate Insurance Company from which she retired after many years of service. After her retirement from the insurance profession, Mother Ray worked in security at the American Airlines Center, where she remained employed until her demise.
On July 5, 1978, Mother Ray was united in holy matrimony to the love of her life, the late James D. Ray, Jr., who was her soulmate and beloved spouse until his passing. Together, they had 3 children, Terrance Robinson, Kerry Ray, and Mikal Ray. Mother Ray was a devoted wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and family Matriarch, who loved, nurtured and disciplined her children. She raised them in the fear and admonition of the Lord, always providing well for her household and being an excellent example of holy womanhood for her sons, grandsons and granddaughters. Though a very strict disciplinarian (she meant EXACTLY what she said), she loved her family with the unconditional love that only a MOTHER can possess. Like a “lioness” she ruled her clan with unrelenting devotion, and with a fierce and protective affection for all who were a part of her family. Mother Ray not only reared her own children, but she was a “Mother of the Heart” to many others, whom she helped to raise and mentor, both within her extended family and beyond. She took under her wings many young people who loved her and considered her as their “Mom.” With a gift to reach youth in a way that was unique, she gathered them to her side and treated them as if they were all her natural children.
Mother Ray accepted the Lord Jesus Christ and was baptized at an early age. As a young woman, she united with Freedom Missionary Baptist Church under the pastoral leadership of Reverend Dr. Mack T. Flemmings, and served in membership there for several years. Later, she heard and believed the message of Holiness and was filled with the precious gift of the Holy Ghost at First Pentecostal (Page’s Temple) Church of God in Christ, under the pastoral ministry of Bishop Joseph Jackson, Sr., where she became a member and was a devoted Servant of the Lord for many years. Over the tenure of her membership at First Pentecostal, Mother Ray served faithfully in a number of capacities, including as: Church Secretary, member of the Sanctuary Choir, Usher Board and Women’s Department. A holy Woman of God, Mother loved the Lord and labored tirelessly wherever she was needed and whenever she was called upon. In her latter years, she united with the River of Life Church under the pastoral leadership of its founder, Bishop Robert Nichols, Jr., where she served on the Mothers Board and remained a faithful, dedicated member until her homegoing.
Yes, our precious Mother was an exemplary woman, beautifully unique, who lived life simply and humbly, but with stately grace and queenly elegance. Like a shining, radiant jewel sent down from heaven itself, the Lord gave her unto us as a gift, which we cherished more than any diamond or pearl. Her love was the delight of many, especially of her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and the many other sons and daughters of the heart, whom she loved and cared for as if she had birthed them from her own womb. With her warm and beautiful smile, her personable manner and compassionate spirit, she touched the lives of many with the Love of Christ. Quietly and without fanfare or the spotlight she gave generously to others, taking pleasure in seeing them happy and making sure they always had what they needed.
Mother Ray was the epitome of confident, competent, capable womanhood, the quintessential “Proverbs 31 Woman” who leaves a rich legacy as a family Matriarch and devout Servant of the Lord. It was just the other day, on Monday, December 12, 2022, that she heard a voice from Heaven and slipped away from us into the protective arms of her Savior, whom she worshipped and adored. And while it breaks our hearts to let her go, we are assured that the song of her life and the melodies of her memories will abide with us forever. Sleep now, our darling and precious Mother….take your rest. Lay down your sword and shield, to study war no more. It’s been a long day and we must say farewell….but we will see you again in the morning.
Mother Ray was preceded in death by: her parents; her husband; son, Mikal Ray; siblings, Elder Don Henry Hardeman, Charles Wilkerson and Joyce Bryant. She leaves to celebrate her homegoing: her sons, Terrance Robinson (Vanessa) and Kerry D. Ray; grandchildren, Shenedra Wilson, Terrance Wilson, Keenan Robinson, Kenisha Robinson, Keeton Robinson, Tamia Robinson, Jessica Anderson, Kerry Ray, Jr., Andrew Wilkerson and Tameria Wilkerson; fourteen great grandchildren; brothers, Swendell Wilkerson and Bobby Wilkerson; sister, Gloria Edwards; several treasured nieces, nephews, cousins and a host of other extraordinary loved ones, church family and friends.