With the strength of an elephant and a backbone of steel, the newly widowed wife recalled the legacy of her God-ordained husband, lover, and friend. Taking a deep breath, Pastor Vonetell “Cookie”, simply said, He oozed the Word of God and what you saw in public was the same as what we witnessed at home!
Ray was born and raised in Gwinnett County, Lawrenceville, Georgia to the late John Brown and Myrtice Paxton Brown. He was the baby and according to his sister Coni, she affectionately reminisced, He was treated as such his entire life! Both Cookie and Coni acknowledged that the “Calling” to preach was on Ray from childhood. According to Coni, many elderly ladies prophesied and nurtured the making of Overseer Brown. Cared for by a host of elderly women babysitters, Cookie proclaimed that God set him up from the beginning of time for his Ministry! It seemed that preaching was in his DNA and even as his mother left him in their care, her teachings were modeled in his life. Both ladies agreed that the strength of his kindness, affection and respect for women was nurtured early on. Coni was quick to add, He could still be a little mischievous, because after all, he was the baby!
Even though they met at Six Flags Over Georgia Amusement Park and quite possibly fell in love ‘going around in circles’ on the Scream Machine, their lives together were far from just making circles. Though very young, he was 19 and she was 17, both of them knew they wanted each other! Her eyes sparkled as evidence of her love and admiration for her man as she spoke. She perked up with energy when she recounted how they decided to elope four years after meeting. According to Cookie, Ray said, God married us! And so, on Saturday, August 1, 1987, the two became one in the sight of God! Cookie tells this story with reverence longings for a man she loved for over 30 years!
Ray attended Lawrenceville Elementary and Middle Schools and graduated from Central Gwinnett High School in 1982. Ray attended integrated schools his entire life, but he is the product of the African American school, Hooper-Renwick High. His mother was taught by Ms. Renwick through the 7th grade; Sisters Linda and Gwen, graduated. And Anthony, Coni and Vanessa all attended; School Choice closed the school in 1968. So, while he did not attend personally, he was influenced.
After high school, Ray attended Morehouse College in Atlanta. From there, he went on to Georgia State University receiving his Bachelors of Science Degree in Public Policy. Prior to his transition, Ray was on schedule to complete his Internship by July 2018. He was subsequently awarded his Master’s Degree posthumously in Chaplaincy Healthcare from Liberty University, Lynchburg, Virginia.
Ray joined his bride at Crestwell Apostolic Overcoming Holy Church of God and was baptized into his new Calling in 1988. Walking the path of a Deacon, to a Minister and finally as a Pastor, he entered what he called “The Work!”
So, what of his Legacy?
Without hesitation, Cookie responded, The Work will continue! She explained, switching gears, referring to her late husband as Overseer Brown. He was fiercely focused on doing what he said God told him to do, which was, “The Work!” She said he was a modern day David. David was the second king of Israel, ref: I and II Samuel, KJV. Acts 13:22 refers to David as, “A man after God’s own heart!” King David desired to be holy and he longed to know God. These are the marks of a man or woman after God’s own heart! Ray, like David, reflected these Godly attributes: reverence, respectful, trusting, loving, devoted, recognition, faithful, obedient, repentant and humility. Cookie reflected on a sermon Ray preached regarding David titled, “Go Get You Some Rocks!” She laughed out loud at how easily he could weave a Biblical story with a practical life lesson seasoned with his quick witted sense of humor. She smiled … affectionately.
The Mantel has been dropped on his wife to carry on The Work. Cookie has been appointed as the Pastor. She stated that Ray was preparing her for his absence. She provided a partial list of what she calls Rayisms: You don’t have to do a background check on God! I can’t be your Holy Ghost! And his most popular – Be encouraged!
She was certain that she was married to a man after God’s own heart. On June 19, 2018, she found him on his knees in the physical but in his spirit, he was at home with the Lord! The verse of scripture came alive to her at that moment, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints!” Psalm 116:15 KJV. The Giant among us was gone home; his Work here was done!