Ralph Wilburn Hayes, PhD., age 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, MO to the late Cleadis E. and Pauline J. (Cotter) Hayes. Following his High School graduation, Ralph enlisted in the US Air Force, where he trained for and flew twenty-two 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, TN 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 August 14, 1959, he married the former Ms. Mary E. Gilbertson in East St. Louis, Illinois. She preceded him in death, passing away on January 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 2:00pm funeral service on Monday, June 17, 2019 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 follow the links provided on the Tribute Wall tab above.
To send flowers to Ralph's family, please visit our floral section.