January 22, 1922 - September 3, 2015
Samuel Lester Ratliff of Big Lake, Texas, departed this life for his heavenly reward on September 3, 2015 after a lengthy illness.
Lester was born in Glasscock County, Texas, on January 24, 1922, to James Brown Ratliff, Sr. and May Cox Ratliff, early ranchers in the area. Like most children at that time, Lester grew up helping his family with their work, and also worked on ranches for other relatives and neighbors. Upon graduation from Garden City High School, Lester began his own ranching career by leasing a ranch with his cousin, Belton Cox, which they both ran until joining the service during World War II. Lester proudly served in the Army Air Corps from 1942 – 1945. After his return home from the service, he resumed ranching and owned and operated a feed and hardware store for the next few years.
Lester married his one true love, Bettye Sue Low, on September 22, 1946, and became stepdad to son, John Ray Cox. They were blessed with two more sons, James William and Michael Lester, and enjoyed sixty-nine years of love and devotion to one another.
In 1950, the family moved to the Texon ranch, and Lester eventually increased his ranching operation to include rangeland and farmland in Reagan and Upton Counties. Lester prioritized the implementation of many progressive agricultural practices and worked in close association with the county extension agent and the local soil conservation service. Lester’s efforts in such areas earned him statewide recognition. His primary occupation for sixty years was ranching, but he also served as Reagan County Commissioner for Precinct 1 for twenty-eight years from 1961 until his retirement in 1988.
Lester was devoted to his family, his community, and his church. He spent countless hours helping his boys with their 4-H lamb projects and attending their school activities. He was a doting and supportive grandfather who took great pride in his grandchildren’s accomplishments.
As a proud supporter of his community, Lester was very active in many civic organizations. He contributed innumerable hours for the benefit of his friends and neighbors and in making Big Lake and Reagan County a better place to live. He belonged to the Lions Club, the VFW, and Trail Blazers. For years, he worked faithfully to support the Reagan County 4-H Club and both the Reagan and Upton County 4-H Junior Livestock Shows. One would be hard-pressed to find anyone more proud of his home in West Texas than Lester.
As a dedicated member of the First United Methodist Church of Big Lake, Lester gave unselfishly of his time and resources in support of his church, serving faithfully for many, many years until failing health prohibited his participation.
Lester Ratliff absolutely never met a stranger. He was always the life of the party, loved to tell jokes, and truly appreciated telling or hearing a funny story. He and Bettye spent many happy summer vacations in Ruidoso, New Mexico, in the company of dear friends. He enjoyed fishing and hunting, but he very well may have most enjoyed the camaraderie with friends and family on those trips. He took great pleasure in planning and organizing every detail of the annual deer hunting trip for family and friends. As soon as one trip ended and the stories were shared, Lester began planning for next year’s outing. Lester and Bettye traveled extensively in their golden years, making new friends all along the way.
Lester was preceded in death by his parents, two brothers, J.B. Ratliff, Jr. and Derwood Ratliff, a sister, Roberta Reynolds, and a son, John Cox. He is survived by his wife, Bettye, his sister and brother-in-law, Juanita and Richard Johnson of Fort Stockton, his sister-in-law, Frances Ratliff of Midland, his sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Lue and Dr. Larry White of Dallas, his son and daughter-in-law, James and Susan Ratliff of Campbellton, his son and daughter-in-law, Mike and Marilyn Ratliff of Rankin, his grandchildren Melissa Cox, John Cox, Jr. and wife Pinar, Regina Bowling and husband Gregory, Reagan Stotz and husband Marc, Renee Kelso and husband Keith, Clayton Ratliff, Dustin Ratliff and wife Chrissie, and Jay Tom Ratliff and wife Chelsea, 14 great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.
Graveside services for Lester were conducted on Tuesday, September 8, 2015, at 10:00 a.m. at Glen Rest Cemetery in Big Lake by the Reverend Larry Young. Arrangements are under the direction of the Shaffer-Nichols Funeral Home in Crane.
The family wishes to express special thanks to all the staff of the Reagan County Care Center and Hospice of San Angelo for their excellent care, kindness, and compassion.
Memorials may be given to the First United Methodist Church of Big Lake or Hospice of San Angelo.