LeRoy’s cousin Raymond Fuller passed away this past week, October 15, 2018. He had emphatically requested no service, no obituary, nothing. He was pretty much a private person. But we want to remember him and tell our friends who have been concerned about his welfare in the last 16 month or so who Raymond was before he had so many health challenges.
Raymond was the last grandchild of Elizabeth Sayers to be born on the farm that she homesteaded in the Cherokee Outlet, so he came from pioneering stock. He fondly remembered early childhood days on the farm before the family moved to town (Cherokee, OK) in 1942. His parents, Roy and Mabel Fuller, passed away from illnesses by the time he turned 8 and he was raised by his grandmother and his mother’s sister Tressie. I’m sure Raymond enjoyed his “only child” status, until LeRoy’s parents, too, died before he was 8 and Aunt Tressie took him in also.
Raymond was about the same age as his Uncle Vernie’s boys, Norman and Rodney, and they spent lots of time together growing up. Hard work was part of his life probably from the time he could pull weeds and as a teenager, he got a job working in the local nursery digging and balling trees, delivering flowers, hoeing and weeding between the trees. It seemed, though, that he was always looking for something more. He took and passed a correspondence course to become an airline ticket agent but never pursued it further. He joined the Oklahoma National Guard but never served active duty. In June before his 20th birthday, he got his chance to move away from small town Oklahoma when his uncle in Albuquerque, NM asked him to come work for him and the rest, as they say, is history. New Mexico never had a better ambassador!
During his time in Albuquerque, he began to follow local boys on the Indy car circuit, the Unser family. When LeRoy was almost 14, Raymond took him to the Indianapolis 500, a memory he loved to retell even though it wasn’t the only time he went to the race. He loved nice cars and had several in my early memory of him.
Raymond was LeRoy’s best man at our wedding.
He came to visit Aunt Tressie just about every year for a long time and they always came to see us wherever we lived.
Raymond worked for Jill’s Bakery and then for Ford Motor Credit before becoming a New Mexico Transportation bus driver. He always had adventures to recount, taking charter groups to Washington D.C. or Nashville or lots of other interesting cities.
After years of living in Albuquerque, Raymond moved to Hatch when he retired in 1999 and he painted such vivid pictures of the chili harvest that we made our first trip in the bus after retirement to the Hatch Chili Festival. Only then did we find out that Hatch is a tiny town and the chili festival itself isn’t very big, either! We volunteered at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque because Raymond told us there was nothing in the world like it. He was right about that!
A lifetime of smoking caught up with him about the time we became fulltimers and he was on oxygen 24/7. We watched a steady decline over the last 8 years, although he assured us every time we were there that he was going to live another 10 years! A year ago in late June, he developed cellulitis in his feet and legs and lost both legs below the knee. We surprised him with a card shower on his 80th birthday. He was indeed surprised! It didn’t make sense to him that people who had never met him were sending him cards.
He worked hard to regain mobility and independence. By the way, that racing jacket was his prized possession and he wore it or was covered by it most of the last two years!
He was just starting to walk on his prosthetics and had moved to assisted living when he was diagnosed with spindle cell carcinoma in the throat. Since doctors were afraid his throat would swell completely closed, they did a tracheotomy and put a feeding tube in his stomach. Over this last summer, he went through chemotherapy and radiation and then was released to the nursing home in Truth or Consequences, but pneumonia and respiratory distress had him back in the hospital more than once before his death this past Monday.
Raymond, we’ll miss seeing you in November and April and sometimes in between. We’ll miss your stories about the farm and the convoluted family. (Raymond’s parents were first cousins and it was decades before LeRoy knew that Raymond’s Fuller cousins were really his cousins, too!) We already miss those calls to tell us that the Sooners won or to ask what time the OSU game is on TV and on what channel. You know what? We’ll just miss you.