The Reverend Canon Don Raby Edwards D.D., 82, died on June 30, 2013 in Morehead City, North Carolina. Raby was born June 13, 1931 in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. A private graveside service was held at Greenwood Cemetery in Tarboro on Tuesday, July 2, 2013. Raby was buried alongside his parents, Charles Kenneth and Mable Craf, and two of his older brothers who served in WWII: Senior Master Sergeant, Charles Silas (US Army) and Petty Officer Ben Franklin (US Navy). His third brother, Major Lester Woodrow (US Air Force) is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His sister, Grace Wellons, a dedicated, caring RN for more than 30 years is buried in Richmond.
He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Jane Credle Edwards, his two sons Blount and Nathaniel, Nathaniel's wife Martha, three loving grandchildren, Emily, Christopher and Janie Edwards, as well as beloved cousins, nieces and nephews.
Raby's family moved to Greenville, NC when he was 10. He graduated from Greenville High School, East Carolina College, and The Virginia Seminary. He served in the US Coast Guard for three years during the Korean War. Raby always felt that he was blessed by strong lay leadership in each of his congregations. He began his ministry as the second Vicar of St. Christopher's Church in Havelock. During his time there, the average daily attendance increased from 100 to more than 200 persons, and the building size almost doubled with the addition of a larger sanctuary. In his last year there, he presented for confirmation to Bishop Wright a number of people equal to more than 50% of the communicant strength of the congregation. While in Havelock, he was active in community work, holding offices in both the Junior Chamber and the Civitan Club as well as serving as secretary of the Ministerial Association.
Under his leadership as Rector of St. Stephen's in Goldsboro, the congregation opened an Episcopal Child Care Cottage, started St. Francis Episcopal Mission, and initiated a sheltered workshop, which provided gainful employment for mentally and physically disabled people. In 1966, Raby was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Goldsboro Jaycees. During his ministry at St. Paul's Church in Wilmington, he was Chairman of the Department of Missions for the Diocese of East Carolina . Under his leadership, new churches were founded in Swansboro and Shallotte. While he served at Emmanuel Church in Athens, Georgia, the rector emphasized community, encouraging his congregation to strengthen ties within so that they could better address the needs outside the parish. He inspired Emmanuel to use church properties for Action's Head Start program and to renovate part of the parish to be used by the Rutland Center for Emotionally Disturbed, a program for children which used an innovative method for teaching special needs students. He was instrumental in starting St. Gregory's Mission Church. As chaplain for the University of Georgia Bulldogs basketball team, his prayers propelled the team to many victories or brought great solace to the team, depending on the circumstances.
Raby was called to be Rector of St. Stephen's in Richmond, Virginia in 1973, where he served for the next 20 years. Again, his leadership promoted efforts to serve those in need, both locally and abroad. He collaborated with pastor Dwight Jones, then the minister of First Baptist Church in South Richmond, to found the South Richmond Senior Center. St. Stephen's supported the center through shared board leadership and with volunteers. He served on the board of the Christian Children's Fund and supported the founding of the Peter-Paul Development Center on Richmond's Church Hill, still a major focus of Episcopal outreach in the city. Within St. Stephen's, Raby emphasized adult formation and lay ministry along with traditional Bible study. The church began to train and use lay volunteers to visit homebound parishioners and nursing homes and later, as lay eucharistic ministers. Though the revision of the Book of Common Prayer caused conflict in other churches across the country, Edwards presided over a quiet introduction and almost immediate acceptance. Similarly, the introduction of women clergy in the 1970s and 80s, first as assistants, and then as clergy, was described as “quiet but decisive, as was Raby's leadership style.” His calm and steady guidance was recognized when he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity by the Virginia Theological Seminary on October 15th, 1979. Efforts abroad included leading the church to support building churches and expand a feeding program in Guatemala, funding an educator in Liberia (Bibi Roberts), helping a Cambodian refugee family settle in Richmond, and supporting a refugee family from Uganda. Indeed, of the many honors and recognitions that came his way, he most appreciated being made an Honorary Canon of the church in Uganda for leading a group in Richmond that supported Bishop Yonah Okoth and his family, who fled Uganda when marked for death by the Idi Amin regime. Bishop Okoth and his family returned to Uganda after the regime was removed, and he became the Archbishop of Uganda.
Upon retirement, Raby was also named Honorary Canon of the Episcopal Church in Guatemala for St. Stephen's ten-year sponsorship of new churches, schools, and children's feeding programs in Guatemala. During his lifetime, people naturally responded to his easy, quiet, and comforting manner. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, tennis, golf and boating. For the first seven years of his retirement, he traveled the inland waterways from New York to the Florida Keys, and beyond to the Bahamas with his family and friends.
Memorial donations may be made to St. Paul's Church, 401 E. 4th St. Greenville, 27858 or St. Stephen's Church, 6000 Grove Avenue, Richmond, VA 23226.
A memorial service will be held at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia on September 21, 2013, at 2:00 p.m.
Arrangements are by Brooks Funeral Home and Crematory Inc. of Morehead City. Access online obituary and Internet condolences through www.brooksfuneralhomeandcrematory.com