CLEARWATER, Fla. — Ralph Wilburn Hayes, PhD., 86, of Clearwater, Florida, passed away Saturday, June 8, 2019, at the Brookside Hospice House.
Ralph was born March 9, 1933, in East St. Louis, Missouri, to the late Cleadis E. and Pauline J. (Cotter) Hayes.
Following his high school graduation, Ralph enlisted in the U.S. Air Force, where he trained for and flew 22 combat missions as a B-29 Tail Gunner during the Korean Conflict.
After the war ended in 1953, he served as a Supply Records Specialist until his honorable discharge.
Ralph was a graduate of Bryan College of Dayton, Tennessee, in 1959 with a B.A. in Bible Studies, and he continued to further his education for the next 25 years, earning his masters, specialist and doctorate degrees from Grace Theological Seminary, St. Francis College, Butler University and Ball State University.
On Aug. 14, 1959, he married the former Ms. Mary E. Gilbertson in East St. Louis, Illinois. She preceded him in death, passing away Jan. 3, 2004. Though Ralph and Mary had no children of their own, they fostered many Native American children over the years.
Surviving are his nieces, Julie Hayes and Lisa (Richard) Lebold, both of Elkhart, his great-nephews, Eric (Miranda) Lebold and Gregory (Kendra) Lebold, and his great-great niece and nephew Emersyn and Tayden Lebold.
Ralph was preceded in death by his brother, Dorman C. Hayes.
Visitation will be held one hour prior to the 2 p.m. funeral service Monday, June 17, at Cruz Family Funeral Home in Osceola with interment to follow in Olive Cemetery, Elkhart.
Ralph spent most of his life in Elkhart County before moving to Florida in 1988.
He spent the majority of his career in education, serving as the administrator of Brethren Christian Schools and later as a professor of education and geography at Clearwater Christian Schools in Florida.
In his spare time, Ralph enjoyed traveling throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Far East, Middle East, Europe, Africa and South America.
In his younger years, was an avid bird hunter.
Ralph also loved his retirement in Florida and was a huge fan of the Tampa Bay Rays.
He also served as a board member, directed music, taught Sunday School and served as a youth director at several churches throughout his life.
In his memory, donations may be given to Twin Branch Bible Church.
To leave an online condolence for Dr. Hayes, please visit our website at www.CruzFamilyFH.com.