Lufkin entrepreneur, owner of Ray's Drive-In dies

Photo courtesy of the Ray Family.
Photo courtesy of the Ray Family.
Jerry Ray & his wife Lawana Ray. Photo courtesy of the Ray Family.
Jerry Ray & his wife Lawana Ray. Photo courtesy of the Ray Family.

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The owner of two long-time popular Lufkin restaurants has died.

Jerry Dale Ray was 64.

According to spokeswoman Yana Ogletree, Ray died at 10:12 p.m. at Memorial Hospital in Lufkin.

Ray owned Ray's Drive-In on Timberland Drive and Ray's Drive-In West on South John Redditt Drive.

Justice of the Peace Billy Ball pronounced Ray dead. He said Ray suffered a gunshot wound, and an autopsy and toxicology report has been ordered to determine the exact cause of death and whether it may have been self-inflicted.

Sheriff Kent Henson said deputies were called to a welfare concern at Ray's home on the 300 block of Royce Oliver Road. When they arrived, they found Ray had suffered a gunshot wound to the head. Henson did not know the exact caliber, but said it was a handgun.

Ray's parents, J.C. and Opal Ray, started Ray's Drive-In on Timberland Drive in 1959. Jerry Ray and his brother came into the business in 1968. Jerry Ray and his wife, Lawana, became sole owners in 1995 and opened Ray's West on South John Redditt Drive in 1996.

"I will have to say Jerry was a man of faith, loved his family and friends and would rather be out in nature than indoors," family friend Diana Kristynik said. "He will truly be missed by all of us."

Ray's funeral will be held at First United Methodist Church in Lufkin at 1 p.m. Saturday.

For decades, his business has been part of the fabric of Lufkin.

"Upbeat personality," Mayor Jack Gorden said. "Just a very positive person. Sincerely interested in the progress and well-being of his community.

"He was just a good person, a good, good, solid person and yes they successfully ran that business for many, many years and hopefully many, many more," Gorden said. "They were very involved in the community. They wanted to pass on a legacy of their appreciation of the natural resources we have."

Gorden went to high school with ray and even worked with him at one point.

He says Ray's legacy is so much more than his landmark business.

"he certainly will have a large part in my heart," gorden said.

He was a man of faith who loved his family and friends. And the outdoors a little better than indoors.

"Things like that make all of us be somewhat introspective, thinking about the more important things in life," Gorden said. "You can't help but say gosh I wish I would've called Jerry last week and visited with him or something, but we didn't. So we just have to move on."

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