Buford Ray Gouldman aka “Walking Tall” was born September 30, 1936 in Mingo, Missouri. A country boy at heart you could never say to him “Shut the door, were you born in a barn?” because he told us he had been. Buford Ray, age 82, died in the early morning on Friday, July 26, 2019 at Hospice Home in Adrian, MI, where he was gently cared for in his last days. His room had a door that opened outside to a lovely water fountain and bird feeders - completing the circle.
During his time in Niles, MI he was known as Ray and when he moved to Adrian in 2016 they called him Buford. When asked which he preferred he said “They can call me Buford, they can call me Ray -- as long as they don’t call me late to dinner I’m all set.”
He was the son of Alfred G. and Mary M. (House), and with his twin sister Ruth Fay, the youngest of six children; Cleatus James, Marjorie (Jarman), Johnny and Norma Jean (Jarman). He was the last surviving sibling.
Buford Ray met and literally picked up Jean Ann McLeod of Dowagiac while roller skating. They married on February 18, 1967. He was preceded in death by Jean in 2017 and his daughter Christie Lynn in 2006. He mentioned that he may have to give in and join Jean in a game of bingo in heaven.
He is survived by his loving daughters, Julie Russell (Wilbraham, MA) and Tammie (Adrian, MI); and two grandsons Sean (Niles, MI) and Atticus Russell (Wilbraham, MA), and friends to everyone he crossed paths and shared a smile with.
He followed his father and big brother Cleatus (Jim) from Missouri to Niles, MI. Ray worked for fifty years at White’s Bowling Lanes, a 12 lane alley in Niles, and although he never bowled a perfect 300 game he made plenty of perfect friendships while he worked from manual pin-setter to manager at the bowling alley from 1955 - 2005.
Buford Ray made all of the doctors, nurses and aides that he met crack a smile when he gave his welcoming remarks of “I have three rights in this world … smoking, drinking, and chasing women and the old guy down at the coffee shop tells me that all three are bad for me.” Then he would give them a big ‘ol smile and laugh and say “I’m just joshing.”
Ray developed stomach cancer, that was discovered as Stage IV in May 2018. He took chemo treatments at St. Joseph Mercy in Ann Arbor that helped prolong his quality of life for an extra year.
A celebration of life will be held on Saturday, August 3 at 2:00pm at Riverview Terrace Community Room, 400 College Ave, Adrian MI where Ray’s favorite snack of chips and dip will be served.
A second celebration will occur on Friday, August 2, at 5:30 pm at Joey Armadillo's, 2732 S. 11th St., Niles, MI, for friends to gather and share memories of Ray.
A memorial in Ray’s name will be created to award scholarships to youth bowlers. Contributions may be made to: Buford Ray Gouldman Memorial Fund, ℅ Lenco Credit Union, 615 W Maple Ave, Adrian MI 49221 1-866-90-LENCO
Photo Album: https://photos.app.goo.gl/eNhLhDGYQFxgE58j8
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