Cover photo for Delores Gay Pierson Raney's Obituary
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Delores Gay Pierson Raney

July 15, 1931 — October 9, 2022

Delores Gay Pierson Raney

RANEY, Delores “Dee” Gay Pierson of South Boston, Va. passed away on October 9, 2022.

    Born on her father’s farm next to the Iowa Indian Reservation in White Cloud, Kansas in 1931, Dee was the eleventh child of Ernest Orem and Ethel Thrailkill Pierson. Her dad was a good friend of Chief White Cloud and Dee remembers going to several powwows in her early years. They later moved to a farm near Hiawatha, Kansas where Dee attended a one room “country” school and then later Hiawatha High School in town.

    Dee’s large family was a close, fun loving, entertaining, musical family of talented singers and musicians, some of whom went on to sing professionally. Their family gatherings always evolved into an impromptu event of harmonizing voices, banjo and guitar pickin’, fiddle playing, and ragtime piano along with lots of jokes and laughter. Dee fit right in and started singing at age 5.

    Although very close to all of her brothers and sisters, she was closest to her older sister, Jeanie. They sang duos and their dad entered them in singing contests at radio stations and other venues in neighboring states. They won first place at KFNF’s Harvest Jubilee contest in Shenandoah, Iowa and were asked to sing on the radio the following week. By age 10, the two were winning several contests and traveled to St. Louis to entertain with their older siblings on three radio stations and they also entertained the troops (WWII).

     Through her teenage years, Dee continued to join her sisters and brothers, when she could, who were touring professionally. These included two summer stints in Bangor, Maine with both daily radio and personal appearances and a South Dakota tour.

     When Dee graduated from high school in 1949 she auditioned to sing on KMA radio in Shenandoah, Iowa. This was the largest station in the Midwest with a 1000 seat auditorium and performances broadcast before a live audience. Talent such as the Everly family and the Blackwood Brothers were there as well as Dee’s sister Jeanie and her husband Mack and brother Willie and his wife Lois. Dee performed with Ike Everly on The Country Schoolhouse program and later had her own Dee Pierson Show. It was here that Dee would meet her future husband, Cal Raney. Cal, who was working in town with good friend Dick Houck, would attend the KMA performances to admire the lovely songbird, Dee. Dick challenged Cal on a bet that he wouldn’t have the “guts” to ask Dee out. Cal won the bet, eventually Dee’s heart, and the two were soon married and started a family. They moved into a house across the street from the Everly family and Dee’s older nephews would play with Phil and Don when they came to visit.

     Dee and her young family moved when Cal had aspirations to better himself and his family. He borrowed $11,000 from family friend Orv McIntosh (the Daystrom Furniture rep in Iowa) to start a grocery business in Missouri. This business eventually expanded to three stores with Cal owning one independently. He later acquired a restaurant when the owners of a local diner became unable to pay a large grocery debt to Cal and came into his store one day and dropped the keys to the diner on his desk as payment in full. At this point Dee became the waitress at the diner while Cal’s mom cooked. She also had the job of hauling pickup truckloads of watermelons with her young son Steve to the other stores while her daughter, Darla, attended elementary school.

    Tragedy struck in 1959 when Dee’s third born child, a baby girl, died shortly after birth due to complications from the Rh blood factor, and later that year Cal’s store burned down. This put the family on the move again. Following Cal’s job opportunities, they lived in two towns in Illinois and then, St. Joseph, MO. Here, Dee worked in the office of the KFEQ TV station. She enjoyed the work and even met Walter Cronkite there. It was during this time that Cal got a call from old friend, Orv McIntosh. Orv, now VP of Sales for Daystrom Furniture, informed Cal that Daystrom, a major furniture manufacturer, was moving to South Boston, VA and he wanted to hire Cal. Cal accepted and Dee’s family moved to South Boston. After one year, Cal was promoted to territory rep for Ohio and the family moved again, to Medina, Ohio.

    Dee and family thoroughly enjoyed Medina and made several lifelong friends. However, Cal was promoted again, and they moved back to South Boston, VA. Although not happy to leave Ohio, Dee re- established and became very active. She sang in the Presbyterian Church choir and worked at Fry, Jordan, and Wilson Insurance and then later for neighbors Alice and Fred Wynne, original owners of 13 Jiffy stores. Cal joined the Halifax Country Club and it wasn’t long before Dee got hooked on golf. She quickly became the best golfer in the family and routinely beat Cal, much to his dismay. She was motivated to get good enough to beat the Country Club elite and eventually won three club championships.

    In later years Dee continued her golf as long as she could and became active in DAR. When she lost Cal in 2019 she found solace with her many friends and particularly enjoyed meeting them at Ernie’s Restaurant. She was also a regular participant at the weekly Cluster Springs musical get together where she would sing and yodel.

    It should be noted that although Dee’s brothers and sisters were no longer close by when she moved east, the Piersons stayed tight knit and got together as often as they could, always with singing and laughter. As the last living Pierson of the original eleven, Dee held an iconic status among her beloved nieces and nephews, many who also sang on the radio as children, and they always enjoyed singing with their “Aunt Dee”. Dee Pierson Raney sang to the end, even yodeling and singing for the nurses in the intensive care unit in Chapel Hill.

    She is survived by her children, Darla Raney (Larry) of Freeport, FL, Steve Raney (Sara Lu) of Chester, VA; four grandchildren, Jeffrey Farmer,Teresa Farmer Crile, Erin Raney Kurowsky and Jack Raney; eight great grandchildren, Wesley Farmer, Darla Farmer, Sammy Farmer, Abel Crile, Evan Kurowsky, Pierson Kurowsky, Max Raney, and Simon Raney.

    She was preceded in death by her husband, Calvin Raney and daughter, Tammy Raney. She was also preceded in death by her brothers and sisters, Gene Pierson, Gladys Blum, Jimmy Pierson, Dick Pierson, Cora Deane Klasi, Helen, Louise Scheid, Ken Pierson, Willie Pierson, and Jeanie Sanders.

    A funeral service will be held at Powell Funeral Home in South Boston on Saturday October 15. A visitation will be from 1pm-2pm and the funeral service will be at 2pm followed by a graveside service at Oak Ridge Cemetery.

 

Online condolences may be directed to  www.powellfuneralinc.com

 

Arrangements entrusted to Powell Funeral Home, 1603 Wilborn Ave., South Boston, VA 24592

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Saturday, October 15, 2022

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Saturday, October 15, 2022

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