Leola Lee Ragland, of Allen, Texas died February 28, 2017 at the age of 91. She was born near Gatlin, Oklahoma in 1926 to James Odus Kelley and Mattie Alabama Kelley. She was preceded in death by her parents and brothers Truman, Alvin, Guardie, and Thurman Kelley, and sister Ruby Siever.
She is survived by her husband of 68 years, Dr. Jim Ragland, son James Ragland of Pearland, Texas, daughter Rebecca Cherry of Springfield, Missouri, son John Ragland of Hot Springs, Arkansas, son Steve Ragland of Plano, Texas, and nephews Chester Kelley of Shreveport, Louisiana and Joel Engle of Anchorage, Alaska. She is also survived by grandchildren Matthew, Jennifer, Megan, John Clayton, Christina, and Rebekah, and many great-grandchildren and grand-nieces and grand-nephews.
She lived almost four decades in Beirut, Lebanon. Wife, mother, missionary and educator, she arrived by steamship in the early 1950s to discover a beautiful city by the Mediterranean Sea. She also discovered a beautiful and amazingly resilient, hospitable people. She especially loved the young children she worked with at Beirut Baptist School. In 1987, President Reagan ordered the few remaining Americans to leave the land that had become her home. Reluctantly, she left Lebanon as she had arrived, on a ship, in the middle of a stormy winter night.
She was there in 1958, when Eisenhower’s marines stormed the beaches of Beirut, only to be welcomed by friendly Lebanese handing out bottles of Coca-Cola. She was there in 1967, huddled in the dark with other expat families, until dawn revealed an ocean of blue and white Pan Am jets waiting to evacuate them all. And she was there during the blackest days of a 15-year bloody civil war. She survived a harrowing home invasion. She endured deprivations and witnessed horrors few Americans will ever know.
She sacrificed much to make her children’s lives in that faraway land a magical adventure they will never forget. She was a testament to endurance and survival. As a teenager, she survived a freak accident that nearly killed her. She survived broken bones, snipers, Finlay Graham’s driving, two knee replacements, a stroke that left her blind in one eye and, at the age of 87, hours of touch-and-go open-heart surgery.
She will be remembered for her fierce devotion to family and to her Higher Calling, for her unyielding tenacity, her contagious smile and her many stories. Her memory will be cherished by everyone whose life she touched.
There will be a celebration of Mrs. Ragland’s long and well-run race at 11:00 AM, Saturday, March 25, 2017, at Hunter’s Glen Baptist Church, 4001 Custer Road, in Plano, Texas. A reception and time of fellowship will follow. Memorial donations may be made to the IMB General Relief Fund.