William Ray Harlow, 77, passed away peacefully at the Durham Veterans Administration Hospice Center on Sunday May 21.
Ray was born in Halifax County, North Carolina on February 23, 1946 to Rachel Rae Reese Harlow and the late William Harlow.
Ray is survived by his loving and faithful wife of 56 years, Maria Munaretto of Vicenza, Italy; and their three children, Sonja Harlow Perkins and her husband Robin of Sanford; William Ray Harlow II of Roanoke Rapids, and Cristina Harlow Spears and her husband Wil of Raleigh. Also, he is survived by his mother Rachel and his brother Tim.
He was blessed with four grandchildren of whom he was very proud; Jory and Ryann Perkins, and Hill and Samuel Spears. He is predeceased by his sister Rita, and his father William.
Ray graduated from Weldon High School where he was an honor student and proudly a part of the 1964 State Champion football team. He attended North Carolina State University for a short time before and after enlisting in the United States Air Force where he was a sergeant and trained as a Defense Missile Specialist.
He married his wife Maria when he was stationed at Aviano Air Force base in Italy where they welcomed their first child.
They lived in Vicenza for a time before he was honorably discharged and moved his family to the United States to live in North Carolina and Virginia. Ray spoke Italian fluently and enjoyed taking his family back to Italy to visit relatives and experience the beauty and culture of his wife’s native country.
Ray became a long distance tractor trailer driver which he enjoyed for many years before moving his family back to Roanoke Rapids to join the family business, Rachel’s Jewelers. Eventually Ray went back to his first love of long distance driving until a series of strokes forced his retirement.
He raved about his unique over-the-road driving adventures and how he was always on time with deliveries even in the most challenging conditions. He was a dedicated professional, safely hauling all the things that make modern life possible while doing some spectacular site seeing.
Ray’s keen intellect and inquisitiveness drove all of his pursuits. He loved books, documentaries and history and was constantly seeking knowledge, spending most of his leisure time reading and writing poems and short stories, often with one of his beloved cats nestled in his lap.
He enjoyed participating in the Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship, the Chamber of Commerce, Rosemary UMC Methodist Men, The American Legion where he served as Chaplain, The Lions Club and The Rotary Club in Roanoke Rapids.
The family would like to extend deep appreciation to Ray's steadfast friends and to the doctors, nurses and staff at the Durham Veterans Administration Hospital who took such excellent care of Ray throughout the years and especially during the last few weeks of his life.
A memorial service will be held at Rosemary United Methodist Church in Roanoke Rapids on Friday, May 26 at two o’clock, followed by a reception in the church fellowship hall.
Friends and family are welcome to attend. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in support of the Durham VA Hospice Unit, Attention: Voluntary Services, 508 Fulton Street, Durham, NC 27705.
Online condolences may be sent to www.hockadayfs.com