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March 21, 1995

Ray and Eunice Khoury have moved to Perry and they are busily engaged in renovating the house on Delaware street where Ray grew up. For years it was the home of his grandparents, Dr. and Mrs. J. W Francis, and later his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Khoury.

Ray is doing most of the work himself, ripping out old plaster walls and removing old floor covering to make the single story dwelling conform to today's codes and to transform it into the vision he and Eunice have for the home place. Ray has retired from the business world so he can devote full time to this project. Eunice travels throughout the state in her work but lends a hand on weekends. Yes, it's a daunting job but one that both enjoy.

Ray's dad, Joe Khoury, passed away last year after a lengthy battle with cancer. Katherine Khoury, Ray's mom, died several years ago. Dr. Francis and his wife, Rachel, also are gone now, but the entire family left a mark on the memory of many people hereabouts.

Dr. Francis was a courtly gentleman from the old school of medical practitioners. You know, when house calls were routinely made at least once a day. Rachel was a gifted seamstress and she passed this art along to her daughter, Katherine. When Joe appeared on the scene in Perry as a petroleum engineer in the 1930s, he courted and won Katherine and they settled down to make a home here. Ray came along in the 1940s.

This story began back in the days when my folks ran the City Drug Store on the north side of the square. The Francis and Khoury families spent a lot of time hanging out there because Dr. Francis' office was upstairs on the second story of our drug store building. This was handy for us because he was our family physician and we lived in an apartment just across the hall from him. He also wrote a lot of prescriptions for his patients and suggested that they take them to our store to be filled.

Dr. Francis was an easy-going native Arkansan with the traditional Ozark sense of humor - dry, witty and ever-present. Even in the depths of the Great Depression, nothing seemed to faze him. He was a devoted pipe smoker, a soft-spoken, gentle healer on the order of Marcus Welby. Even in his later years, when we had moved back to our home on Elm street, just two blocks from the Francis home, he never questioned the need to come over in the middle of the night when my mother was in the throes of insulin shock. He performed the same kind of service for someone night after night, but I don't think he ever missed a day at the office because of those nighttime calls. His dedication was greatly appreciated by the sick and their families but perhaps we too often took him for granted.

Rachel and Katherine loved to sew. At one time Rachel opened a sewing shop on the balcony at the rear of our drug store. The two of them did alterations or made complete ensembles for many Perry ladies, and it always seemed to me they were more like sisters than mother and daughter. They were extremely fond of each other. When Ray came along, Rachel was like a second mom. And you may notice a similarity in first names -- Rachel and Ray. He was named for his grandmother. My mother and Rachel also were best friends so she became Ray's "Aunt Ivy." Mother and Rachel both developed health problems about the same time, in the late 1940s, and Dr. Francis referred both of them to the Hertzler Clinic in Halstead, Kan., which he always described as a Mayo Clinic on the plains. Many times I was the chauffeur driving mother, Rachel, Katherine and young Ray to Halstead for treatment.

Dr. Francis always had at least one office receptionist, and they were always attractive and polite. Some that I remember are Pat Terronez Padilla and later her sister, Virginia Tovar; Belle Ruff, the daughter of jailer Dutch Ruff; Vaynne Roberts, who married Otto Cowell and became the mother of optometrist Dr. Scott Cowell; and Mildred Green, who married the Francis' son, Bud. Jack Stone, the justice of the peace, also was a fixture in the office. He and Dr. Francis were devoted baseball fans and the reception room radio was always tuned to a Cardinal game when one was on the air. Jack also reviewed all the magazines in the office to make certain they were suitable for reading by the general public.

Ray's folks later operated a furniture store on the east side of the square and served as tag agents for a while. After Katherine passed away, Joe was semi-retired, but he stayed active. He worked at various jobs, including housepainting, until failing health dictated a slowdown. Joe loved his family and never tired of bragging about each and every one of them, including some like us who were at best shirt-tail relatives.

Now we have Ray and Eunice back in Perry after an absence of a few years, and they are fitting right in to our community. We're glad to know they chose our little city, and the old Francis home, as their place of permanent abode. It certainly brings back a lot of pleasant memories. Welcome home, folks!