Julian Ray Etheridge, beloved husband of Ann Etheridge, died peacefully at home in the early morning hours of February 23, 2023 at the age of 94 surrounded by his loving family.
Funeral, Sunday, 3:00 PM, Forest Hills Baptist Church, followed by a time of visiting and sharing.
Ray was born November 22, 1928 in Wilson County to Selby Anderson Etheridge, Sr. and Alma Wiggs Etheridge. A man of many skills and talents, he mastered several trades over his lifetime, most notably and his primary occupation for more than 50 years, fine furniture making.
He grew up on the family farm in Wilson County. After briefly serving in the Army Reserves during the Korean Conflict, he returned home to manage the farm where he soon started an upholstery business. A few years later he founded and after several years sold the still successful Wilson Power Mower and Saw Service. He then worked for two years at the Antique Barn in Wilson as a craftsman prior to starting Etheridge Design and Handcrafted Reproductions.
His wife Ann worked along beside him in his businesses for years. He told her that before starting a piece of furniture for a customer, he would ask for the Lord's guidance. He told her, "One needs money to survive, but the gratitude and appreciation from a customer means even more."
Ray was a self-taught master craftsman whose creations are owned by people around the world. He had the mind of an engineer, the sensibilities of an artist and an irrepressible curiosity that drove him to figure out how things work. While perfecting his furniture making craft, Ray's passion for gadgets and the mechanics of automotive engine operation led to his being granted a patent for an anti-theft auto switch in 1972 and a second patent a short time later. An artist in every sense of the word, Ray found an outlet in poetry. Throughout his years-long battle with dementia, he delighted in being able to recite his poems to friends, family and healthcare providers and did so until a few weeks before his passing.
Even as dementia robbed him of much of his past, Ray never met a stranger and never lost the essence of the lively and engaging spirit that defined him and drew people to him. He'll be remembered not only for his talents but for his folksy sense of humor, sharp wit and entertaining stories. He loved being with people and Ann brought him to Forest Hills Baptist Church with her until his recent steep decline. Over the years, he has sung in church choirs and served as a part-time adult Sunday School teacher.
Throughout his life, Ray found ways to share his gifts and talents with others. He taught small engine repair classes at Wilson Technical Institute, spoke at garden clubs about his craft, spoke at schools on Career Day, taught his craft to apprentices, and held an office in the Wilson Antique Dealer's Association. For more than 50 years he was a member of the Stantonsburg Masonic Lodge. In 1975, he was honored as Wilsonian of the Week.
Ray is survived by his wife of 59 years, Ann Rogers Etheridge; daughter, Gena Ann Etheridge of Black Creek; sons, Horace Ray Etheridge of Wilson and Maurice Anderson Etheridge of Wake Forest; sister, Rose Marie Etheridge of Chapel Hill; nieces, Wanda Jo Etheridge of Wilson and Debra Glen Larsen of St. George, UT; nephews, Dwaine David Etheridge of Ft. Walton Beach, FL and Darren Keith Etheridge of Laurel Hill, FL; six great-nieces, four great-nephews, five great-great nieces, six great-great nephews, one great-great-great nephew and several cousins.
In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by his two brothers Selby A. Etheridge, Jr. of Wilson and Stanley A. Etheridge of Niceville, FL; niece, Roberta Gay Burchette of Okaloosa, FL; brother-in-law, John R. Poe, Jr. of Chapel Hill.
The family is grateful for the skilled care provided by the kind staff and volunteers of Hospice of Wilson and for the many acts of kindness shown by friends and neighbors.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to Forest Hills Baptist Church, 1407 Forest Hills Rd NW, Wilson, NC 27896; Hospice of Wilson, 2130 Forest Hills Rd. W, Suite A, Wilson, NC 27893; Dementia Alliance of North Carolina, 9131 Anson Way Suite 206, Raleigh, NC 27615, or a charity of one's choice.
Arrangements by Wilson Memorial Service, 2811 Fieldstream Dr. N, Wilson NC, 252-237-7171; www.wilsonmemorialservice.com