Late local man wills $25,000 donation to Cassville schools
Ray Vaughan a staple at Wildcat sporting events
In the early 1980s, the Cassville school district gained a friend and supporter in WWII veteran and 31-year Exxon employee Ray Vaughan.
Recently, Vaughan's support of the district extended past his time on Earth, as the former pilot donated $25,000 to the district in his will.
Richard Asbill, Cassville superintendent, said while Vaughan was a staple at volleyball, basketball and football games throughout the past few decades, the donation came as a surprise.
"It was very much a surprise," he said. "We were not anticipating getting it, and Ray never said anything about it. We had his friendship and his support throughout his time here, so to give this gift on top of all the time and friendship was a big surprise."
Vaughan, who died on Dec. 20, 2015, at the age of 93, came to Cassville in 1984 after retiring from Exxon. Asbill said Vaughan immediately made his presence felt by assisting Ronny Cowan with coaching girls basketball and volleyball, always showing his excitement for helping students and being active in the community.
"He wanted to be a part of the school district, and he was a great community member," Asbill said. "I met Ray in 1995 or 1996, and as I got into administration and supervised games and events, I always saw Ray there."
Cowan also came to Cassville in 1984, as head girls basketball coach and an assistant football coach. He later took the volleyball coaching position.
"I met Ray in church, as we both went to the Mill Street Church of Christ, and he found out I was from Oklahoma, and he was from Oklahoma. We had a little bond there, both being Okies, and when he found out I was the girls basketball coach, he asked to volunteer, and I let him."
Cowan said the arrangement lasted about 12 years.
"Ray would give the girls tips, gather equipment and just do whatever was needed to help out," he said. "He was always involved in youth sports in Oklahoma and was a high school and junior college basketball referee. He just enjoyed working with the kids and being active, since he was retired.
"Ray knew how to respect and treat the kids, and he knew his place with me and the team. He would just do anything we needed him to do. It was a good time. We had winning records, and he was a part of that."
Asbill said Vaughan was hard to miss at sporting events, as he loved to spark good conversation.
"Sometimes you didn't talk much because Ray did most of the talking," Asbill said. "You could talk to him for 30 or 40 minutes, and while you'd nod your head or answer a quick question here and there, Ray led the conversation. Once he felt you were a friend, he would talk to you as much as you wanted."
Asbill said Vaughan also had other likable quirks, especially when it came to giving the gift of desserts.
"About once a month or so, Ray would bake a pineapple upside-down cake, and if you walked into the break room and saw one, you knew Ray had been there," Asbill said.
Cowan said Vaughan's ingenuity extended to the athletic courts as well.
"One time, Ray showed up with two shopping carts to put our volleyballs in, because we didn't have the fancy holders back then," he said. "He got Ramey to donate them, but I accused him of just stealing them out of the parking lot and teased him about it. He would always think of different things to just make life easier for everyone."
Asbill said Vaughan's support was always welcome.
"He was always a good supporter of our Veterans Day programs, and at football games, he liked to come up to the press box at halftime and talk, especially at the colder games," Asbill said. "Ray just enjoyed good people and good conversation."
Cowan said Vaughan was disappointed when he took another job in Rogers, Ark., for 11 years, but that never changed how much Vaughan cared about the district.
"He didn't volunteer for his ego," Cowan said. "He did it because of how much he cared about helping out the kids."
Asbill said to ensure the district makes the best possible use out of the $25,000 donation, a committee is being formed to plan how to use the money. The committee will likely include Jon Horner, Cassville school board member who sits on the finance committee, as well as an administrator and a couple of teachers.
"We want to find something to do with this donation to make it a long-lasting gift," Asbill said. "If the committee decides to set it up as a scholarship opportunity, what a tribute that would be to Ray's love of the school district. They may also set it up as classroom grants, where teachers could apply and we'd give $500 or $200 for use in the classroom. If something like that could be sustained for 20-25 years, that would be a good use.
"We just want to do right by the kids, because that's what Ray would have wanted."