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Sylvia Gooding Ray

June 1, 1941 ~ November 30, 2020 (age 79)


Sylvia Gooding Ray passed away November 30, 2020 at home surrounded by her family. She was born June 1, 1941 to Dr. Guy Vernon Gooding and Ella Long Gooding of Kenansville. After graduation from James Kenan High School, Sylvia attended Salem College before moving to New York City at age 20. There she attended Katherine Gibbs School and had many interesting work experiences, including positions where she wore a hat and gloves, and a stint as assistant to Elizabeth Arden where Ms. Arden often personally tested new cosmetics on Sylvia.

After four years in New York and a fun year in Atlanta, ever adventurous Sylvia contemplated moving to Europe to work in the Foreign Service. She came to North Carolina to prepare for the venture where she met Robert G. Ray, then a law student at the University of North Carolina. After ten weeks in Europe Sylvia decided to return to the USA, due in no small part to Bob’s telegrams and flowers. Sylvia and Bob were soon married and moved to New York City, where she worked with Pan American Airways. Together, they began travelling the world.

A good Southern girl, Sylvia wanted to rear her family close to her roots in North Carolina. The pair moved to Fayetteville in 1973, where in addition to rearing her family, Sylvia attended Fayetteville State University. Graduating in 1984, she later served with pride on the Board of Trustees at Fayetteville State. She also served as President of the Fayetteville Chapter of the National Organization of Women, marching for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, and fighting for women’s abortion rights throughout the 1980s. She was a Delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1984 and remained a loyal Democrat all her life.

Sylvia had great empathy for the underprivileged, founding the Women’s Center of Fayetteville in 1990 as a charitable organization providing education programs and counseling aimed at improving women’s lives. Later the Women’s Center became the Center for Economic Empowerment and Development (CEED) and served both women and men. CEED offered Lease-to-Home programs and New Choices programs that helped thousands of people over the years. The US Small Business Administration also designated the Center to administer its loans and grants in Southeastern North Carolina. Recognition for Sylvia’s work included the Athena Award for supporting women and inspiring them to achieve their full potential, the Louise G. Gregory Award for promoting the oneness of humanity, the Susan B. Anthony Award from Fayetteville NOW, and the Order of the Long Leaf Pine.

Sylvia loved to bake and made a mean pound cake. She was a lover and rescuer of animals and leaves a devoted and bewildered dog, Frankie. She especially enjoyed travel with family and friends and made it to six continents. Only when planning a trip to the seventh, Antarctica, did she discover that she had bone marrow cancer, a condition she fought hard the last years of her life.

Sylvia is survived by her husband of 52 years, Robert G. Ray, daughters Theresa Nicole Graysmith (Luke L. Graysmith) and Olivia Lauren Ray; grandchildren Atticus, Rosemary, and Cedar Graysmith; brother Dr. Stephen C. Gooding (Rhonda M. Gooding) and brother-in-law C. Michael Ray (Josephine M. Ray), along with many much loved nieces and nephews. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her brother, Guy Vernon Gooding Jr., and sister Theresa Gooding McNairy.

Sylvia was a member of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church and her relationship with the Church and friendships there were most meaningful and important to her. There will be a Celebration of Life service at Holy Trinity at a later date. Funeral and burial services will be private due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Sylvia’s family offers thanks and appreciation to the many friends who provided her support and laughter, especially over the last two years.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a contribution in Sylvia’s memory to CEED, 230 Hay St., Fayetteville, NC 28301; Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, 1601 Raeford Rd., Fayetteville, NC 28305; Fayetteville Animal Protection Society (FAPS), 3927 Bragg Blvd., Fayetteville, NC 28303; or Fayetteville State University, Attn: Advancement, 1200 Murchison Rd, Fayetteville, NC 28301.


No services to be held at this time.

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