(The following remarks were written by President Emeritus Lloyd M. Pelfrey and shared at the Saints in Action event on September 15, 2016.)
Central has been blessed through the years to have many dedicated friends attend the on-campus events. These dedicated people eagerly anticipated the opportunity to visit the campus, to hear a special speaker, and to have fellowship with their friends who also came to such gatherings. Each year some of these people gain their eternal rewards. The events continue, but we miss those who used to enjoy them with us.
Two such people were featured this past spring at the Men’s and Women’s Banquets: Myron Ray McCully and Karen Richardson. They were the first recipients of the Dedicated Friend designation.
Today we continue this practice, but this time we are featuring a couple. We are presenting Leon and Ruth Hollenbeck Ralls of Shelbyville, MO, as the first couple to be recognized in this way. Shelbyville is more than the hometown of Norm Stewart, Missouri’s famous basketball coach. It is also the home of a dedicated couple who provided leadership and endless service for the church there and Central Christian College of the Bible.
Leon and Ruth showed their support of the college in many ways. They were Minutemen, that group of people who delighted in helping when emergency situations arose. Do you remember the Memorial Day picnics and softball tournaments that were held almost 40 years ago? The Ralls family came to them. They also attended the Christmas concerts and Living Christmas Tree programs by the choir. They attended almost every alumni gathering, using it as an opportunity to reconnect with old friends.
For them it was simply unthinkable to miss a Men’s Banquet, or a Women’s Banquet, or the Saints in Action event. When Ruth died on Monday, September 8, 2014, it was just natural that Leon had to attend Saints in Action 10 days later on September 18, so he had Tom Plumb bring him to the event.
One of the factors that influenced Ruth was this: she was in that very first group of students when classes began on September 4, 1957. There was a strong bond that developed among those students. If they were in this area they faithfully came to events at the college so as to see their special friends. Ruth had said that her college friends were the best friends of her life.
Ruth saved things, such as the college catalogs during her student years, copies of programs at the college and in the churches where the college sent teams. For example, she had a copy of the very first catalog, but there is a page missing. It is the last page, and it had an “Application for Admission.” It is what she used to apply as one of the first students to be enrolled.
During those early days the college students traveled and presented programs for supporting congregations. Sometimes it seemed that the entire student body went. Ruth was always in the groups. Sometimes she sang, and sometimes she played the piano for others. That was in the day when another student may have been doing chalk art—completing a picture with colored chalk during an appropriate song.
Ruth was in the first commencement service in 1958, receiving a two-year certificate. She was able to do this because in the previous year she had attended Lincoln Bible Institute, now Lincoln Christian University.
In the summer of 1959, Ruth and Karen Westergaard Richardson went to east Tennessee, to Elizabethton, to work in the East Tennessee Children’s Home. Working together for Christ does create a special bond, and it did for them. You may recall that it was Karen who was honored as a Dedicated Friend at the Women’s Banquet earlier this year.
After Ruth was graduated in 1960 it was not long until she became Mrs. Leon Ralls, and by 1963 two children were born—Ronald and Jane. The parents and the children were active in the Shelbyville church. Ruth taught Sunday School, worked in VBS, played the piano, taught after-school groups, and went with other Shelbyville ladies on their days to cook at camp. She drove carloads of young people to youth rallies and to camp.
Leon has been a deacon, an elder, and Sunday School teacher. He developed a prison ministry for the Shelby County jail. He read widely, and he did not just read. If he had questions, he might write a letter to the author so as to find out more. He was always thinking and evaluating.
There were times when there was no preacher, so the two of them would take over the youth programs, and the young people would come to their home. Leon would be the teacher for one group, and Ruth had another one. What about Ronnie and Janie? They could easily be told to go to a bedroom to play quietly, and . . . they usually did.
Why did they do all these things? It was their faith in Christ that was the guiding and driving force in their lives. That’s why we can call them, “Dedicated Friends.”
As stated earlier, Ruth went on ahead to her eternal reward on September 8, 2014, and Leon joined her about one year later on September 25, 2015.
Today, in 2016, it seems strange to look around and not see Leon and Ruth at this event. There is one thing that we can do: we can honor this dedicated couple and their service for Christ with a special gift, and then resolve to do what we can to continue the work of the church in this area.
We invite you to join with his family in making a donation in memory of Ray to help provide Full-Tuition Scholarship Funds for the students of Central Christian College of the Bible.
(If you are giving by credit card, the card information will be requested after completion of the form below. If you would prefer to give from a bank account, you may type the account information within the form. Secure payment processing by Bluepay Processing Services. To give by check, please make checks payable to Central Christian College of the Bible and mail to 911 E. Urbandale Drive, Moberly, Missouri 65270. Please write “Leon & Ruth Ralls Memorial” in the memo line. Thank you for your tax-deductible gift.)