Raymond McLeod Champion Jr., age 86, died on Friday, Aug. 23, 2013, in Lansing, Mich., after complications from a fall.
He was born Dec. 10, 1926, in the family home in Slayton, Texas, to Raymond McLeod Champion and Mary Sue (Braswell) Champion.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Annabelle "Anne" Hiller Champion, and his parents.
He is survived by his brother, Roscoe L. (Barbara) Champion; nephews, Kyle David (Elizabeth) Champion, Darryl McLeod (Sharon) Champion; niece, Kimberly Gae Champion, and grandnephews and -nieces, David McLeod (Justine) Champion, Brian Champion, Chrissy Champion, Diana Champion, Angelo Champion; and two great-grandnephews.
Other survivors include nieces, Roberta (Donald) Mann, Pamela (Donald) Smith, Rebecca Pease; and nephew, Timothy (Karla) Hiller; grandnephews and -nieces, Sarah (Nicholas) Cook, Stephen Mann, Ryan Smith, Jason (Michelle) Smith, Kevin (Zach) Pease, Jenny (Eric) Williams, Sam Hiller and Jamie Hiller; and great-grandnephews and -nieces, Benjamin, Sophie and Adeline Cook, Kai Smith, Wyland and Sidney Ray Smith, and Parker Williams. Additional survivors include nephew, Don (Paula) Hiller, and nieces Barbara, (William) Atwell and Mary Ann Boschke.
Raymond, perhaps better known as Ray, attended school in his hometown of Slayton, Texas, and graduated at the age of 16 as valedictorian of his class. He went to work three days after graduation for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway for the summer in the engineering department. He entered Texas A&M that fall majoring in civil engineering. Schooling was interrupted when he was drafted into the U.S. Army after World War II. On return, he alternated working for the Santa Fe and attending school until he received his civil engineering degree from Texas A&M and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. During the Korean War era, he was recalled to active duty and spent a year in France with the Army Corps of Engineers. Utilizing his benefits from the G.I. bill, he attended the University of Michigan Law School and received his law degree in 1954. It was in Ann Arbor where he met Annabelle Hiller. They were married in the First Congregational Church in Charlevoix in 1954.
Ray's career with the Santa Fe Railroad found Ray and Anne living in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Kansas and Chicago, where he ended his 44-year career with the Santa Fe. He was instrumental in the integration of computer technology into railroad operations. His expertise brought him to testify before the Interstate Commerce Commission on numerous occasions. During his tenure with the Santa Fe Railroad, he served in the engineering, operations and executive departments retiring as vice president and assistant to the chairman of the board of Santa Fe Industries. Ray and Anne moved to Burcham Hills in East Lansing in 1999 when Anne's failing health necessitated living close to family members.
Ray had a prodigious appetite for reading. He continued throughout his life to expand his knowledge on the economy, world affairs, history, science, literature, language and any other subject that challenged him.
Ray was a thoughtful and generous friend to all. As a first-class raconteur, he was an enjoyable dinner partner or companion.
The legacy he leaves is one of a life well lived in accomplishment and the serving of others; that legacy is one to be cherished by family and friends and to be emulated by those who follow. He leaves a great vacant spot in the many lives he has touched.
The Rev. Philip G. Schairbaum will officiate at a graveside service at 2 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 30, at Brookside Cemetery in Charlevoix.
The family is being served by Winchester Funeral Home in Charlevoix
Memorial contributions may be made to the First Congregational Church of Charlevoix.