Raymond Sugg has a heartwarming little story as to how he and his wife, Betsy Hellen, met. Seems she attended a baseball game in which he was pitching for the Goldsboro Goldbugs. After the game she introduced herself and told him she thought he was one sorry pitcher — in jest, of course, for he had pitched a good game and won. He also demonstrated his hitting prowess with a home run.

Nevertheless that meeting, I believe in Wilson, led to courtship and eventual marriage which somehow evolved into a quick multiplication formula. Obviously both were familiar with God’s encouragement to Adam and Eve — “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.”

Nine months after the “I dos” along comes baby numero uno. Raymond tells me that Betsy enjoyed having children. He accommodated, and it didn’t take many years before there were 2 plus 8, equaling 10 sitting around their dining room table.

Betsy was an intelligent woman and to all accounts was an outstanding mother. She was a 1947 East Carolina graduate. During college days she was not one to stand on the sidelines but involved herself in numerous clubs about campus. Apparently she loved music, applying her talents four years as a member of the college band.

Perhaps her crowning achievement was being named to “Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.” Which was explained thusly: “This is an honor seniors dream of. Hard work and effort is the price to pay for this honor, and these students have every right to be proud of their achievement.”

Two hundred and two seniors graduated in 1947. She was one of just 17 to be so honored.

On March 11, 1974, Betsy died in a tragic accident when she was overrun by her own car on the campus of Princeton High School. She was a dedicated member of the teaching staff.

Almost four years later, Jan. 21, 1978, Raymond married Virginia (Ginny) Peterson Rains. Ginny’s first husband. W.C., had passed away in 1974, at the age of 53. They were parents of three children of their own. Ironically, W.C. had attended Oak Ridge Military Institute as did Raymond, and both would serve in the Army during World War II.

Ginny was a godsend in helping Raymond raise his houseful of children, though by the time of their marriage some of the older ones were young adults, having graduated from Princeton High. All eight have turned out to make Papa proud. During one of my visits I enjoyed watching Raymond proudly turn the pages of a small photo album, with nothing but loving and complimentary remarks coming from his lips. They appeared to be the epitome of happiness.

Ginny died at 79 years of age on Jan. 30, 2004, and is buried at Evergreen Memorial Cemetery with her first husband.

Continued his love for the game

After college Raymond continued to play semi-pro baseball, his great love. This report is from a May 1958 game. He was a seasoned pitcher playing for Smithfield. You’ll recognize some of the “kids” he was playing with and others who were playing against him:

“Highly touted high school phenom Gaylord Perry (a kid) and veteran Raymond Sugg combined to blank Goldsboro’s semi-pro Goldbugs 5-0 for the hosting Smithfield Leafs yesterday in a Tobacco State League exhibition.

“Perry, the big tall right handed fire-baller from Williamston High School, who last year didn’t yield an earned run, struck out 16 Goldbugs in twirling seven hitless innings with four major league scouts including ex-Goldsboro Cardinal skipper George Ferrell and brother Rick for the Tigers in the stands watching him.

“Floyd Hood’s (another kid and probably Grantham’s best athlete ever) pop single in the 8th off reliever Sugg was Goldsboro’s lone safety.

“ECC’s Bill Loving took the Goldsboro loss with Quake ace Bobby Dan Reaves (kid playing for Goldsboro High school where he was a three-sport star) hurling the final two and two-third innings and yielding only one run.”

Baseball fans will know that was the same Gaylord Perry who, in 1991, was enshrined at 25 Main St., Cooperstown, N.Y., in baseball’s legendary hall of fame.

How many lives has Raymond touched?

There is no way to tell or no measuring stick with which to gauge it. He had a successful career as a teacher and coach at his hometown high school. No doubt his success as a player himself, coupled with the teams he coached at Princeton High, would fill volumes. Over the years I have collected just a sprinkling of news stories that prove my point(s).

And I say, though critics may disagree, participation in athletics can do as much in developing one’s character as almost any other endeavor.

In 1958 he was coaching no fewer than four teams, including the junior varsity girls, the varsity girls and boys basketball teams as well as the baseball team. During which time he was still pitching semi-pro games. Samplings of his basketball coaching skills:

Thursday, March 6, 1958: Princeton’s sizzling boys ousted Johnston County runner-up Cleveland 62-51, for their 29th straight victory without a setback, to move into the district three semifinals tomorrow night at 9 against tonight’s Stantonsburg-Woodland winner. Andy Creech poured in 19, Tommy Thompson and Leamon Wiggs 15 each and Deacon Jones 10 for Raymond Sugg’s Bulldogs.

Saturday, March 8: Princeton’s unbeaten Bulldogs stretched their amazing victory-string to 30 straight last night by turning back highly regarded Wilson County champion Stantonsburg 50-40, in the District Three, Class A semifinals.

Princeton was sparked last night by Leamon Wiggs with 16 points, Tommy Thompson with 12 and Deacon Jones with 11. Gerald Toler with six and Andy Creech with five rounded out the scoring. Don Webb was Stantonsburg’s big gun with 16 points.

Tonight at 8 o’clock, the classy Johnston County champs of Raymond Sugg tangle with strong Vance County champion Zeb Vance for the right to compete in the state tourney in Southern Pines next Wednesday. The Bulldogs will be pitting their balance against Zeb Vance’s height.

(Apparently Zeb Vance’s height won out as they defeated Princeton. Wiggs was high scorer with 16. Deacon Jones had 12.)

From basketball to baseball

Not many days had passed before the boys had shed their tennis shoes and laced up baseball cleats. I have no record of their overall success in baseball, but apparently they were winners. A Jones boy seemed to carry a great part of the load with his pitching arm.

A news report of April 5, 1958, read, “Deacon Jones of Princeton pitched a no-hitter against Pine Level, but gave up two runs because of wildness. He walked 10 and struck out 16.”

A report of April 19: “Deacon Jones whipped Corinth-Holder 4-2 on one hit to leave Princeton (North Division) with the only perfect record (5-0) in the Johnston County league.”

Could it be that Raymond Sugg taught the Deacon and others that he coached much more than how to hit a basketball goal or strike out the opposition? Are you aware that after high school graduation Deacon Jones received a sports scholarship to Oak Ridge, the same military institute in which Raymond had enrolled some 18 years prior? Could Coach have influenced Deacon’s decision in making that choice?

Raymond’s last year of teaching was in 1959. Why? Well, he had financial responsibilities and a large family to support. So when an opportunity came along to increase his income, he took it. He became a rural mail carrier — a federal employee, with an increased salary and better benefits. How was he accepted by those along his mail route? I’ve heard rumors that he would occasionally take a break along the way for a friendly chat and on occasion was invited to stay for lunch.

One of his routes took him through the Neuse Islands where he delivered to members of my Williford clan. He can tell you a lot about the folks of long ago who lived in homes along that route. However, most of them have long since upgraded their earthly abodes to one above.

Raymond has served the Lord well and still attends the local Princeton United Methodist Church. Several days ago I heard that he was not doing “too well.” One said that he had missed church “last Sunday” and that when he misses church you know he’s having a hard time.

He has been honored in numerous local parades and has often served as grand marshal wearing his military uniform. Yes, it still fits!

Over the years I’ve never heard a bad word about nor ill will expressed toward this good man. Nothing but praise and especially from that gang he shoots the bull with over breakfast at the local Hardee’s.

Perhaps the seniors of Princeton High School sang his praises best when, below his photograph, they wrote:

“A good teacher, an excellent coach, a sincere friend – yes, he is all of these; but, above all, because of his sense of fair play, his devotion to real sportsmanship, and those simple unaffected traits of a gentleman of the highest type, all of us will be better men and women through the influence which he has stamped upon our lives.

“We, the Senior Class of 1959, proudly dedicate this year’s CHALLENGER To RAYMOND MASSEY SUGG.”

Fifty-five years later, January 2014, during Sunday morning service at his church, Mayor Don Rains presented Raymond a document signed by the governor. It was the coveted Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

And now, with all I’ve written about him, I’m not saying nor implying that Raymond wears a halo or that I’ve seen signs of sprouting wings. But I will repeat this statement to the citizens of his beloved hometown. If ever you all decide to crown a king of Princeton, I believe the wearer should be one Mr. Raymond Massey Sugg. Amen.

Ironic that this column, though not planned, would run on Father’s Day. I think any one of us would have been proud to have a father like Coach Raymond. I expect any of his eight children would agree.

Sherwood Williford writes a weekly column for the News-Argus. Contact him at 919-440-8811, Sherwoodowl@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 175, Princeton, NC 27569.