GALLIPOLIS — Friends and colleagues gathered to remember the late Ray McKinniss, former Bob Evans farm manager, Monday afternoon to dedicate the planting of a buckeye tree in city park in McKinniss’ honor.
“He spearheaded Ohio Chautauqua coming to Gallia County,” said local Chautauqua Chairperson Debbie Saunders of McKinniss. “He, Bob Hood, Becky Nesbit, Bob Gordon, it was kind of their vision that got it started to come here. As a committee we’ve been really pleased to have it back here a record number of times for the State of Ohio, here in Gallipolis. (The Ohio Chautauqua) loves to come here and they kind of have a standing invitation, so to speak, as can be allowed because of the welcome they get in Gallipolis.”
Saunders said friends felt it was fitting to dedicate a buckeye tree in McKinniss memory and for his love of Ohio. A plaque at the tree’s base says “In memory of Ray McKinniss, who planted the seed for Ohio Chautauqua in Gallipolis. May his legacy inspire us all to participate in growing our community.”
Linda and Steve Chapman committed funds for the purchase of the tree while the Gallia Ohio Chautauqua Committee purchased the plaque.
“I just think that if you plant a seed it will mature into a full-grown project, someday at sometime,” said committee member Bob Hood. “I think the idea of planting a tree is because of the ideas that Ray planted that we later saw grow. That’s why we chose the planting theme because of his ideas which grew. I think that comes from the vision he had with his company and look what they’ve started. The largest (Gallia) event that comes to our community started as a small festival.”
Ray McKinniss, 61, of Rio Grande, died December 29, 2015. In 1980, McKinniss joined Bob Evans Farms Inc. He served in a variety of capacities before becoming the Rio Grande farm manager in 1995. McKinniss was born May 25, 1954, in Athens, Ohio, the son of George and Barbara McKinniss. He married Terri Hilyard on Dec. 19, 1976, in Wellston. They had three married sons, Heath and Melissa McKinniss, Justin and Brieanne McKinniss, and Travis and Kaley McKinniss.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.