Phonso Neill Rayford, 75, passed away at home on July 24, 2013 in Elkhart, Texas after a lengthy and courageous battle with cancer. He was born Jan. 15, 1938 in Arp, Texas to P. S. and Lucille Neill Rayford. Neill loved the Lord and he was a loving husband, father and grandfather.
Neill is survived by his beloved wife of 45 years, Donna; daughter, Lonna Rayford Britt and husband Kyle; son, Phonso Jerry Rayford and wife Jodie; son, Gary Neill Rayford and wife Shonda; nine grandchildren: Brandon and Kimberly Britt, Jeremy and Cristen Britt, Adam and Whitney Britt, Natalie and Robert Palombi, Zackary Rayford, Brittni Rayford, Blake Laney, Kinsley Laney and Jaxon Rayford; five great granddaughters and a great grandson due in August; sister-in-law, Helen Craft and husband Howard; sister-in-law, Bobbie Abbott; sister-in-law, Linda Walker and husband Floyd; and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. He was preceded in death by his parents, P. S. and Lucille Neill Rayford.
Neill graduated from Tyler High School in 1956 and earned a Bachelor of Science in Business from Stephen F. Austin while on active duty in the United States Air Force. He was honorably discharged from the Air Force in 1967 and later earned a Master’s of Arts in Criminal Justice from Sam Houston State University. Neill enjoyed fishing, boxing and spending time with family and friends. He was a six-time Texas Golden Glove Champion between 1954 and 1959. He worked for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for 36 years in the Correctional Industries Division. Neill held many positions during his time with the agency which involved the areas of records conversion, plant management and TCI sales. He ended his tenure as the Special Programs Division Manager of the Offender Work and Training Program. This program and the success of it were very close to his heart. Neill's military and educational background and his belief in people and rehabilitation were the impetus behind his drive and work ethic. In 1981, he became the first employee of the IDCJ Industry Division to receive the Correctional Industries Association Award for Supervisory Excellence and in 2004 he received agency (IDCJ) Leadership Award.
A special thank you to the following staff of Grace Visiting Nurses and Home Health Services for their compassionate care and support: Melissa Flores, Susie Gordon and Glenn Conner. Also a heartfelt thank you to the following staff of Heart to Heart Hospice for their compassionate care and support: Melissa Rawlinson, Courtney Holland, Tonja Newman and Janet Duhon. The family would like to thank the following doctors for their compassionate care and support: Dr. Anna Aparicio of M.D. Anderson in Houston, Texas, Dr. Sidney Chadwell in Palestine, Texas, Dr. Glenn Dundas in Palestine, Texas and Dr. Taskar ofUT Health Center in Tyler, Texas. To all of our family and friends who provided much strength and support, we are deeply grateful.
Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, July 26, 2013 at Lloyd James Funeral Home in Tyler,
Funeral services will be at Lloyd James Funeral Home at 11 a.m. Saturday, July 27, 2013 with Pastor James Featherstone of Calvary Baptist Church in Huntsville officiating. Burial will follow at Bascom Cemetery in Tyler, Texas.
Serving as pallbearers will be Mike Canant, Craig Craft, Earl Curry, Mike Hall, John Katambami, and Robert Laake. Honorary pallbearer is Bob Stoudt.