Miller Ray Van Eaton was born Nov. 23, 1923, on his home ranch at Olive, the sixth of nine children born to John Frederick and Hazel Trella Van Eaton. He went home to be with the Lord on Dec. 14, 2012.
He grew up on the ranch in the midst of the Great Depression, helping with all the ranching duties. He was an excellent marksman and horseman, and could ride a horse bareback at a full gallop. He attended country schools through the eighth grade, and then moved to Roswell, where he attended Roswell High School. He lived with his older sister Hazel and younger brother Tom while attending high school.
The day after high school graduation, he was sworn into the Army Air Corps at Fort Bliss in El Paso. He was a proud World War II veteran, serving with the 5th Air Force, 312th Bomb Group, flying combat missions as a gunner on an A-20 aircraft. He was present at the liberation of the Philippines and at the battles of Leyte and Luzon Gulf. He attained the rank of staff sergeant and his awards included American Theater Award, Asiatic-Pacific Award, Good Conduct Medal, Philippine Liberation Medal, Air Medal, Distinguished Unit Badge and Victory Medal.
After World War II, he attended Texas Tech on the GI Bill and got a degree in petroleum geology. There he met and later married Mary Louise Purgason. They were married just short of 50 years before Mary’s sudden death on Jan. 1, 2000.
After a brief stint on a seismograph crew, he returned to Roswell and worked at the U.S. Post Office until he retired. Together, he and Mary had six children, which kept him very busy being a baseball coach, taking his kids and their friends to the park, watching dance, piano, chorus and orchestra recitals, attending DeMolay and Rainbow Girl initiations and attending track, cross country and football games. Some of his best memories were spent with his family camping and fishing. He also liked to garden and watch the Dallas Cowboys play football.
He was preceded in death by his wife; one son James Frederick “Fred” Van Eaton; his parents; his eight siblings, Oliver Van Eaton, William “Bill” Van Eaton, Annette Traweek, John Frederick “Fred” Van Eaton, Hazel Van Eaton, Ira “Tom” Van Eaton, Louise Van Eaton and Gertrude Van Eaton.
He is survived by his children and their spouses, Mary Diane Baker and husband Dave, of Austin, Texas, John Lawrence “Larry” Van Eaton and wife Ginny, of Taos, daughter-in-law Barbara Van Eaton, of Roswell, Miller Paul Van Eaton and wife Anne, of Dripping Springs, Texas, Roberta Hinshaw and husband Steve, of San Angelo, Texas, and Karen Elmore, of El Paso, Texas.
He is also survived by grandchildren, Richard Baker, Andrew “Andy” Baker, Marnie Rose, Rebecca Frederick, Katie Kleinert and husband Falk, Ryan Van Eaton, Christopher Van Eaton, Daniel Van Eaton, Jessica Hinshaw, Kristen Hinshaw, Luis Rivera and wife Heather, and Keyon Elmore and wife Kaitlyn. Great-grandchildren include Gabriel Lefthand, Lena Frederick and Greysen Elmore.
Special thanks are extended to Karen Elmore, Luis and Heather Rivera, and Gerald Elmore and the staff at Ambrosio Guillen Texas State Veterans Home for the special care that they have taken of Ray/Dad/Grandpa in the last few months of his life.
Funeral arrangements under the direction of LaGrone Funeral Chapel. Funeral will be on Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012, at 10 a.m., at LaGrone Funeral Chapel with interment to follow in Memory Lawn Park. The viewing will be on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012, from 5 to 8 p.m., at LaGrone Funeral Chapel.
In lieu of flowers, please consider giving to Wounded Warriors Project at woundedwarriorproject.org, or to your favorite charity.
Friends may leave condolences online at lagronefuneralchapels.com.