Raymond Allen (Ray) Azbell – Obitary

By  | December 7, 2017 | Filed under: Morrison Funeral Home, Obituaries

Raymond Allen (Ray) Azbell, age 97, entered his heavenly home on December 6, 2017.

Ray was born in Sheffield, Alabama to the late Dolphey and Margaret Sibley Azbell, and was the great grandson of George T. McGregor, Sheffield’s second elected mayor.

He attended Sheffield schools, Florence State Teachers College (now the University of North Alabama), and received a Bachelors of Electrical Engineering degree from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University). He received many honorary awards, including Kappa Mu Epsilon (mathematics), Eta Kappa Nu (electrical engineering), and Phi Kappa Phi (scholarship). He was a registered professional engineer.

He served as a naval officer during World War II and was recalled to active duty during the Korean Conflict.

After the war he returned to Sheffield and was employed by the Sheffield Power and Water Department as chief engineer. He was given the job of supervising the electrification of Colbert County.

In due time he was promoted to manager of the Power Department and later served as General Manager of all Sheffield Utilities.

During his professional career he was active in all facets of utility work and served the industry in the following capacities:

President—North Alabama Power Distributors Association

President—Tennessee Valley Public Power Association

Organizer and Chairman of the board of directors of Distributors Insurance Company

Member of Board of Directors: American Public Power Association, American Public Gas Association, and Tennessee River Valley Association.

Under Ray’s leadership and with fellow Sheffield Utilities members Walter Hester and Wayne Chaney, the “utilicorder” was developed. This hand-held computer revolutionized utility meter reading and billing procedures for the entire utility industry. This was recognized by an article in the “Centennial Issue” of Public Power magazine.

He was a member of American Management Association, American Waterworks Association, and a life member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.
Ray was a life member of Sheffield Masonic Lodge 503 and was a 32nd degree Scottish Rite Mason. He served a term as Grand Chaplain of the Grand Masonic Lodge of Alabama.

He was a lifelong member of First Presbyterian Church of Sheffield where he was a ruling elder, Sunday School teacher, and a member of the church choir for 65 years.

He was very active in civic affairs. He was a member of Sheffield Rotary Club for seventy years during which time he served terms on the Board of Directors, as club treasurer, and as president. He was named a Paul Harris Fellow.

At various times he was chairman of the Colbert County Chapter of the American Red Cross, president of Colbert County chapter of American Cancer Society, chairman of the Board of Trustees-Shoals Hospital, member of the board of directors TVA Credit Union, and was a division fundraiser for United Way of Northwest Alabama.

He was a member of the University of North Alabama President’s cabinet and was on the Foundation Board of Northwest Shoals Community College.

Ray was a strong supporter of education. He endowed the C. M. Brewster Scholarship at Sheffield High School, the Joe Groom Collegiate Singers Scholarship, and the Edd Jones Band Scholarship at UNA. He contributed to the Northwest Shoals Community College Scholarship Fund for many years. He was also a strong supporter of the arts.

In 1975 Ray received the Distinguished Service Award from the Tennessee Valley Power Distributors Association. In 2003 he received the Community Service Award from the University of North Alabama.

One of his most prized possessions is a beautiful plaque naming him an Honorary Member of the UNA Concert Band and Jazz Band.

He was preceded in death by his parents and two sisters: Peggy Ann Coleman (Dutch) and Vivian Hanford (Ralph) both of Lakeland, Florida; by the mother of his children, Earlene Maddox Azbell; and by his second wife Wilma (Billie) Jamieson Azbell, all of whom he loved dearly.

He is survived by his son, Dr. Raymond Allen Azbell II (Ann) of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and his daughter, Dr. Debra Rai Azbell Woods (Steve) of Trussville, Alabama; five wonderful grandchildren: Kyle Lutterman (Cassie), Cpt. Mack Azbell (Debbie), Greg Woods, Alison Azbell (Cameron Lane), Ginger Woods, and beautiful great granddaughter, Josie Mae Lane.

The family would like to thank the many friends who enriched Ray’s life, especially those who aided him in his latter years, with special gratitude to his caregivers, Wanda Davis-Willard, Barbara Letson, and Brenda Butler.

A memorial service is to be held at First Presbyterian Church, Sheffield on Saturday, December 9 at 3 o’clock with Reverend Jaina Glaze and Reverend Dr. James K. Thompson officiating.

Visitation will be in the church parlor for one hour preceding the service. Memorials may be made to the organization of your choice.

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