ABERDEEN – With the 50th anniversary of man’s first steps on the moon last week, history overlooked plenty of the hidden figures in the shadows of astronaut giants Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.
One of them was a contractor named Charles Rembert Raley, who was responsible for building and paving Highway 8 East from Aberdeen to Greenwood Springs. Through his affiliation with a firm in later years that contracted with NASA, Raley was approved by the space organization to be general superintendent of construction for two launching pads in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Those launching pads were used for the Apollo moon missions and later space shuttle missions.
“To him it was more like another job. He had a reputation for building roads faster than anybody else could,” said Jim Buffington, whose wife, Martha, was Raley’s daughter.
Jim said Raley moved to Aberdeen in 1949 while working for Blount Bros. Construction in Montgomery, Alabama. He later started his own contracting company that built several roads in east Mississippi and west Alabama. Raley was also a partner with Aberdeen engineer Sam Jaynes in the Alabama/Mississippi Paving Company.
The Buffingtons visited him and his wife in May 1964 in Florida when the launch pads’ construction was underway. He said security was nearly non-existent, as his father-in-law drove him on a tour of the vehicle assembly building, launching pads and roads leading to the launch pads.
Martha, who was 32 at the time, recalled watching Armstrong’s walk on the moon July 20, 1969. Jim said they watched Walter Cronkite broadcast the iconic moment in history.
He said with Raley, however, they didn’t engage many times in space-related conversations.
“I am proud he was in this, and he was a good builder. My family is so proud of him,” Martha said.
In addition to Martha, Raley’s other children are the late Charles R. Raley, Jr. of Huntsville, Alabama and Michael Raley of Gray, Georgia. The elder Raley died in 1971 and is buried at Odd Fellows Cemetery.
He’s not the only NASA connection to Aberdeen as Marcia Stockton Lindstrom is currently part of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Program, the agency’s flagship mission in human exploration. The program will return humans to the moon and beyond. She is is strategic communications manager in that she educates and informs the public about the rocket and its mission.
Earlier in her NASA career, she worked as a grant writer for the Saturn V Restoration Project in Huntsville.
While working on that project, she saw the original employee organizational chart for the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville and discovered her uncle, Claude E. “Bud” Stockton, was its first chief financial officer.
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HAMILTON – A veteran turned business owner and his wife, along with the man who lost his life to April 13’s tornado, were recognized July 20 during Hamilton Appreciation Day.
John T. and Eva Nell (Holloway) Roberts were chosen as this year’s Hamilton Outstanding Citizens of the Year.
“It’s a great honor to live in this community for so long. Both of our children went to Hamilton and had some of the same teachers I did,” Eva Nell said.
She went to school at Hamilton all the way up until her senior year, when she transferred to Aberdeen. Eva Nell met John, who served in U.S. Army, in November 1957, and they got married Feb. 12, 1958 at Fort. Riley, Kansas.
He was soon deployed to fight in the Korean War and later in Vietnam. After retiring from the military and working as a conservationist, the couple eventually settling in Hamilton in the early 1970s. He ran a full-service Chevron station from 1971 to 1983 and another one in Aberdeen in 1985, while she worked at several places such as South Monroe Garment, Country Squire and Senter’s Drug Store.
“I was one of the first to donate to the Hamilton Fire Department and for Hamilton school’s air conditioning. I helped build the Hamilton Sports Association’s ball field and helped take care of it for 14 years,” he said, adding he served for six years on an advisory committee for Tronox.
“It’s a great honor [to be citizens of the year]. We appreciation the committee for choosing us,” he said.
Additionally, the late Roy Ratliff was honored through a posthumous award. The 95-year-old lost his life after a tree fell on his residence alongside Center Hill Road.
Ratliff’s nephew, Dean Honeycutt, described him as a dedicated member of Center Hill Baptist Church, who taught Sunday school.
“He was a very kind-hearted guy. He was willing to help in any way he could. Up until two years ago, he planted a big garden for everyone in the community,” Dean said. “He was a well-liked gentleman who had a lot of good friends. He lived a good life.”
Ratliff served in both World War II and the Korean War. He settled in Hamilton after working 19 years for a company in Wisconsin that designed cabinets for Sears. He was the last of his siblings to pass away.
“Although he lived a long and Godly life, it was a tragedy to lose him t he way we did,” Dean said. “I want to give a heart-filled thank you to the Hamilton community and Hamilton Appreciation Day committee for choosing Uncle Gene for the outstanding posthumous award.”
AMORY – A trio of ladies representing areas of service from children to the elderly were among the nominees at this year’s Mud & Magnolias luncheon honoring the most influential women across its market area.
Monroe County’s delegation to the luncheon was comprised of Amory Main Street Director Alyssa Benedict, attorney Sarah Cline Stevens and Krisi Boren of the Full Tummy Project.
“Just to read the email informing me that I had been named a finalist among an unknown number of nominees from northeast Mississippi was humbling,” Boren said.
Boren’s mission with the Fully Tummy Project is to provide sacks filled with healthy, easy to prepare foods during weekends and school breaks for children who might otherwise go hungry. Stevens’ emphasis as an attorney is directed toward elder law and estate planning, while Benedict is the city’s leader for the downtown merchants’ association.
“It was indeed an honor to be nominated. There was a room full of impressive ladies at the luncheon,” Benedict said.
Stevens observed that the trio from Amory represented a broad area of service to the local community.
“It speaks highly of Monroe County. We’re getting involved [in our respective niches],” she said.
Benedict was quick to spread the credit around to all the people involved in Amory Main Street, saying everything she does takes a team of people, and it’s humbling.
“The community is needed to support your efforts. It’s hard to be influential by yourself. It takes a vision,” Boren said.
“We’re in service capacities, as are most honorees. The panel picked people that weren’t afraid to do something different,” Stevens said of the trio.
She used an analogy from the animal kingdom to describe their work in the community by saying, “a lion doesn’t need to tell you it’s a lion.”
“Can we walk out who we were created to be? We can make a difference with what we have rather than waiting to get what we feel we need to have to help with our efforts. It’s a leap of faith that has a domino effect,” Boren said, expanding on the thought in a philosophical way.
Stevens summarized the joint mission of the ladies as involving creativity, compassion and community, adding it’s a journey.