George Ray Harding, Sr. ’56

We are deeply saddened to announce the death of George Ray Harding, Sr. of Plantation, Florida. He passed away peacefully during the early morning hours of December 8th, 2023, with his beloved wife Gail of 62 years by his side. Ray was 89 years old.

Ray was born in Marion, North Carolina and was an athletic star at Marion High School, excelling in football, baseball, and basketball. His prowess earned him a scholarship to Davidson College for all three sports, but he decided to devote his time to play basketball and became a three-year varsity starter for the Wildcats. He remained a loyal basketball fan and benefactor of the College throughout his life. After college, Ray married Gail Genevieve Rutherford from Valdese, North Carolina on June 10th, 1961. Together they had two children, son Ray Harding, Jr. and daughter Rankin Harding.

He was extremely involved in the development of his children and their activities when they were young. He coached his son’s baseball and football teams and his daughter’s tee ball team, while also making time to support their respective tennis careers. Rankin was certainly “daddy’s girl” as they formed an everlasting father-daughter bond. Her childhood friend, Gigi Meehan Greene, aptly summed up that Ray was her “best friend, biggest cheerleader, life coach, and someone [she] could always count on.” His family meant everything to him as he was the epitome of a dedicated husband to Gail, father to Ray Jr. and Rankin, and grandfather to his four grandchildren, who affectionately referred to him as “Granddaddy” and “Pop-Pop.”

“Big Ray” was known for his affable character and his master storytelling. Without trying, he was the funniest person in the room, and he always made people feel comfortable around him. His sense of humor, his laugh, and his warmth will forever hold a special place in the hearts of his family and friends. Anyone who ever met him would say he was a true “southern gentleman.”

Ray was a natural-born salesman and worked in the furniture industry for 48 years, primarily with Stanley Furniture where he earned Salesman of the Year during his distinguished career. He later had the opportunity to work alongside Ray Jr. for 13 years as “Team Stanley Florida.” It was special for “Big Ray” to have his son in his corner during the latter part of his business career. Ray retired in 2008.

In between family and his business career, “Big Ray” developed an interest in aviation. Thanks to the urging from his friend Bill Meehan, he earned his private pilot license during the mid-’80s. He later was responsible for encouraging his son Ray Jr. to earn his pilot license, and the two of them enjoyed flying the beautiful skies of South Florida.

Ray is survived by his wife Gail Harding from Plantation, FL, his son Ray Harding Jr., (wife Carla) from Venice, Florida, and his daughter Rankin Harding Perry (husband Philip) from Ft. Lauderdale. He is also survived by his grandchildren Shelby Harding, Sarah Harding, and George Harding III of Venice, Florida, and Genevieve Cameron Perry of New York, New York.

Donations can be made to the Davidson College Athletic Fund, P. O. Box 5000, Davidson, NC. 28035. A ‘Celebration of Life’ in honor of George Ray Harding, Sr. will be held this Spring in Florida.