John Raymond Ratliff Sr., 95, advocate for employee rights in the workplace

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John Raymond Ratliff Sr.
John Raymond Ratliff Sr.

WILMINGTON — John Raymond Ratliff Sr., 95, passed away Sunday, Jan. 1, 2017, at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, N.C., after a brief illness. John was born on March 31, 1921, in Kewanne, Ky. He graduated from high school in Ashland, Ky.

In his early years, John was a heater for Carnegie Illinois Steel Company. He became a licensed watchmaker and jeweler, owning his own business in West Virginia. In later years, he worked for the state of West Virginia, first for the West Virginia Public Health System and then later for Kanawha County Schools. In the much publicized union worker strike against the school system in 1969, he became an advocate for employee rights in the workplace. As a result of his efforts, new facilities were built at the Nitro, W.Va., location.

Masonry was an important part of John’s life. His membership in the Washington Masonic Lodge #58, St. Albans, W.Va., was a rewarding experience for him. He was an active member for many years, becoming master of the lodge and later the district deputy grand master.

His hobbies and activities in earlier years included fishing and boating. Later, he enjoyed gardening and became quite the expert at raising tomatoes, much to the delight of his family and friends. He also loved watching his favorite basketball team play on game day, Duke. For many years, John and Roberta had been avid “mall walkers,” and enjoyed the many friendships they made along the way.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Alex and Bessie Sword Ratliff; two brothers, Robert and Russell Ratliff; and nephew, Lee Ratliff.

John is survived by his beloved wife of 44 years, Roberta Minner Ratliff of Wilmington, N.C.; daughter, Carol Meadows, and her husband, Joe, of Salisbury, Md.; two sons, John Ratliff Jr. of Little River, S.C., and William Ratliff, and his wife, Lisa, of Jacksonville, N.C.; stepdaughter, Tammy Ingram, and her husband, Matthew, of Jacksonville, N.C.; and stepson, Rodney Meador of Charleston, W.Va.; seven grandchildren, Joseph Meadows, and his wife, Ashley, of Arlington, Va., Carrie Cain, and her husband, J.J., of Fairplains, N.Y., Rick Ratliff of Ashville, N.C., Emily Ratliff of Boston, Mass.; Barry Waddle, and husband, Mike, of Shelbyville, Ky., Colin Ratliff, and his wife, Penny, of Austin, Texas, and Erin Ratliff, and her husband, Jesse, of Carolina Beach, N.C.; and seven great-grandchildren, Emily, Ryan, Lauryn, Emery, Austin, Cole and May. He also has two surviving step-grandchildren, Chrissy Vick, and her husband, Robin, of Falkirk, Scotland, U.K., and Ashley Selby, and her husband, Joel, of Sanford, N.C.; three step-great-grandchildren, Millie, Murray and Sadie; and much-loved nephews, Robert C. Ratliff, and his wife, Beverly, of Gibsonville, N.C.; Richard R. Ratliff, and Dennis J. Ratliff; niece, Mary E. Ratliff; cousin, Racine Ratliff, and wife, Patia, of Pikeville, Ky., and their children, Dennis Ratliff, Mary Donna Foley and Becky Justice.

A celebration of life memorial will be held in John’s honor from 2 to 4 p.m. Monday, Jan. 16, at Wilmington Funeral Chapel.