Friday, 04 October 2013 14:51

Meet Ray and Ruth Bozeman: An Inspiring Story of Sacrificial and Lasting Love

Written by  Alan Cross
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When the Bozemans came in the gym recently, a buzz rustled through the folks from our church, Gateway Baptist. We were watching an Eastwood Christian School volleyball game and some of our girls were playing with a good number of parents and youth there to cheer the girls on. Ruth was in her motorized wheel chair, as she has been in one form or another for over 60 years since she was struck with polio as a 25-year-old wife and mother of two young children. Ray was by her side, as he has been for 67 years. You cannot say the name of one without the other. It is always “Ray and Ruth.” They are one.

 

The effect that they had on all of us that evening just by showing up was palpable. In an age of excuses and busyness, Ray and Ruth, 87 and 85 years old, just keep going and giving and loving and supporting. They finally retired from their business less than two years ago. They show up for prayer, for church gatherings, to visit people in the hospital, to attend funerals and ballgames and to support and love families and children that they have just met. Ruth’s eyesight and hearing are growing poor and she barely has use of one arm, but she, along with Ray, keeps smiling and loving and giving wisdom and time and energy. Together.

 

I have been one of their pastors for almost 14 years now and I am more amazed by them every day. What they have sown into their life in love for God and other people bears a harvest of faithfulness and righteousness for all of us every day. They have faced many trials and much adversity over the years, but their testimony is that God has sustained them and strengthened them and that He has been good. They have seen their trials as a blessing. Their story needs to be heard by this generation.

 

Ray Bozeman is a World War II veteran. He served in the Navy in the South Pacific and once spent 3 1/2 days in a life raft after his patrol boat was sunk by a Japanese submarine. Ray was also a scout who was one of the first Americans on Okinawa before the invasion and spent a night hiding from a Japanese patrol looking for him. The next morning when he climbed out of the ditch that he had been hiding in, all of his hair had fallen out during the night from fear of being captured.  As far as Ray knows, he was also the first American to set foot on Japanese soil as he was a machinist’s mate who helped get the first dignitaries to Japan on a small boat called a Captain’s Gig. When it hit the dock in Tokyo harbor, Ray was the one who jumped off to help tie the little boat up so the dignitaries could begin to negotiate Japan’s surrender. Sitting and talking with Ray about his life, his experiences in World War II, and his faith in Christ through all of it is a history lover’s dream.

 

Ray returned home to Montgomery from the war in 1946 and met Ruth Greene. He says that he went all over the world and ended up marrying the girl next door, as Ruth lived next door to his parents.  Like Ray, Ruth was a Christian and cannot remember a time when she did not love Jesus. They married in 1947 after Ray returned from another six months of ferrying troops back home from the Pacific and after Ruth completed a year of college at Huntingdon in Montgomery. They had a daughter, Barbara, in 1949, and a son, Mike, in 1951. They were a happy little family who were active in their church, Forest Avenue Baptist, and who enjoyed being together.

 

In September of 1952, however, tragedy struck. I’ll let Ruth tell it:

 

 

We had just purchased a lot down on Fleming Road in South Montgomery. We had gone down there on a Sunday afternoon to show it to my mother and daddy and we took a picnic lunch to eat. I didn’t feel good that day and thought I was coming down with the flu. I felt terrible all night so the next day, we called the doctor who came out to the house and he immediately knew what was happening. He didn’t tell me but called an ambulance and had me taken to the hospital. I was there a couple of days and had not seen my children. On Wednesday night, I was laying in bed and was praying and not feeling like my prayers were getting past the ceiling. All of a sudden, I sensed a presence in the room and was able to start praying like I never have before. I told the Lord that if he was ready to take me, then I was ready to go. But, if I was going to stay here, then the rest of my life, I wanted to serve Him. I experienced peace at that moment like someone had pulled a blanket over me - it was the peace that surpasses all understanding. I didn’t know when I fell asleep that night that when I woke up, I would be completely paralyzed.

 

When I woke up the next morning, I could only move my eyes. But, the peace was still there and it has never left me. I still didn’t know what was going on. It wasn’t until the doctor came in later in the day that I found out I had polio. 

 

 

Ruth stayed in the hospital until November, 1952, and when she returned home she was on a stretcher for several months. But her and Ray’s spirit was indefatigable. Clinging to the Lord and each other, they began to face the hard reality of what their new life was going to be like. But, they were not going to give up. Ray took Ruth to vote in the 1952 presidential election in a stretcher. She wouldn’t be denied. She went to church in that stretcher as soon as she was released from the hospital. She was going to keep living and loving and serving God and Ray was determined to help her and live on and love with her.

 

After receiving treatment for eight months in Warm Springs, Georgia, Ruth regained use of her right arm and was able to sit up in a wheel chair and resume her role as a wife and mother upon her return home. She and Ray have since traveled all over America (even going camping regularly during the 1960s and 70s), gone on mission trips, taught Sunday School, helped start Gateway Baptist, raised their own children and cared for their parents in their later years, and blessed and served and encouraged thousands of people.

 

Ray became an insurance salesman and Ruth later worked for an air conditioning and heating company and helped design the air conditioning system for Eastdale Mall. They decided that they were not going to let polio and being in a wheel chair be an excuse or be something that kept them from living the life that God had for them. Instead of it being a curse, Ruth has described polio as a blessing because it taught her to depend upon God.

 

Whether you are young or old, there is much to be learned from Ray and Ruth. They are praying people. They constantly point to Jesus. They are humble and they are learners. When a lot of people would have given up or given in to bitterness, Ray and Ruth continued on and thrived. I asked them why they were able to overcome and Ruth responded by saying,  “Our sole intent is to share what God’s love has meant to us with other people... None of what our life has been would have been possible without the Lord and our relationship with the Lord. We have sought every day for our life to be a blessing to others and to show forth the Lord to them.”  Ray included that the Lord has always been faithful to bless them in return and that God has been everything to them.

 

One of the things that sticks out most is their love for one another. Ruth told me, “I cannot remember a night when the last thing I didn’t hear before I went to bed was ‘I love you’ from Ray.” Ray added that the most important thing in a marriage is to always tell your wife that you love her, lest she forget. He also said, “We never let polio keep Ruth from doing what she wanted to do. We found a way to do it somehow.”

 

Ray and Ruth Bozeman are one of those all-time great love stories of sacrifice, perseverance in the midst of great trial, and incredible beauty and blessing. In an age when marriage is often thrown away when it becomes hard, Ray and Ruth have proven that, with God as the foundation, difficulties can turn into victories and joy. With God, all things are possible!

 

 

Alan Cross is pastor of Gateway Baptist Church and an avid writer.  Check out his blog at www.downshoredrift.com.

 

 

Photographs of Ray and Ruth by Lori Mercer.

 

 

 

Last modified on Friday, 04 October 2013 15:34
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