Pastors' Memoirs

Forrest Sheldon Racey, 1902-1988

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Dr. Forrest S. Racey was born June 9, 1902, in Purgitsville, West Virginia, to the Rev. and Mrs. Lee Allen Racey. His father was a minister in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.

Forrest received his education at Shenandoah Collegiate Institute (forerunner of Shenandoah College and Conservatory of Music), Bridgewater College, West Virginia University, and the University of Virginia. It was while he was employed in the extension department of West Virginia University that he began the prescribed reading program of the Virginia conference that would lead to his ordination.

Before entering the United States Army as chaplain in 1942, he served the following charges in the Virginia conference: Riverton, West Virginia (1930-1936); Pleasant Valley (1936-1940); and Augusta (1936-1942). After his service with the 841st combat engineers (1942-1946), he began his association with Shenandoah College and Conservatory of Music as an instructor in history. In 1956, his teaching responsibilities were extended to include economics and he began to take on administrative responsibilities: public relations, business manager and, in his own words, "Jobs that defied labels and definition." Simultaneously with the latter part of this period, he also served the Massanutten Charge (1952-1956).

Forrest became president of Shenandoah in 1956 and presided over the development of the new Winchester campus and the first nine years of Shenandoah's life there. When Forrest retired in 1969, he took his appointment as president emeritus and his continued re-election to the college board of trustees seriously and never missed a meeting except for an extenuating circumstance. In addition, he involved himself in fund-raising activities for Shenandoah until shortly before his death. He accepted appointments from the district superintendent (most notably the Winchester Circuit, which he served from 1969-1979).

Alumni remember Forrest Racey as a sometimes unorthodox professor who knew his subject and loved teaching. Parishioners remember him as a caring, dedicated pastor who preached down-to-earth sermons and prayed exuberant prayers. Leaders of the Winchester area and the Virginia conference remember him as a person who was never too busy to lend a helping hand and be- come wholeheartedly involved in community affairs. Many remember him for other reasons: his wealth of stories, his "healthy irreverence" in the presence of professional stuffiness, and his humility when others reached out to honor him.

In 1930, Forrest Racey married Leota Sullivan, who shared his interest in Shenandoah College and the parish ministry. She preceded him in death in 1981.

In 1983, he married a second time. Hazel Gilmore, a native of Anderson, Indiana was, like her husband, an educator and devoted Christian. For five years, Forrest and Hazel charmed the Shenandoah campus and Winchester's First United Methodist Church with their wit and goodwill.

The Lord in his wisdom did not let one live long without the other. He called Forrest on June 8, 1988, and Hazel on June 16. At their request, nearly identical services were held for them at Shenandoah's Goodson Chapel.

The bulk of the Racey estate has been left to Shenandoah College and Conservatory where basically through scholarship pro- grams, the Raceys will be reaching out to help others far into the future. This was their final expression of the Lord's will for their lives.

-Bruce C. Souder

 

 

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Background photos courtesy of VDOT.

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