Legacy of Service: the Story of Doris Ragan

When Doris Ragan died last year at 97, she left behind fifty years’ worth of travel journals.

And when her sons and daughter found them, they got out a big map and started sticking pins in every country she’d been to.

“It was at least sixty, and at least half of those were missions trips,” said her daughter, Angela Sloan. “She was a ‘go, go, go’ kind of person. She never dwelt on the past—she was always looking forward to the future.”

That’s the legacy Doris left at her church—First Baptist Church of Tavares, Florida—as well as in the community around her. She taught Sunday school, was director of WMU, led Girls in Action, played the piano at church, directed the choir when needed, and insisted on a cut-flower arrangement every Sunday in the church.

Doris’ daughter explained, “My mom is 3rd row far right if you count the row with the crown bearers. I am in the middle with my brother, Randy, in front. Carolyn Weatherford was there to give me the scepter.”

Doris’ daughter explained, “My mom is 3rd row far right if you count the row with the crown bearers. I am in the middle with my brother, Randy, in front. Carolyn Weatherford was there to give me the scepter.”

And she loved missions, said Ann Fortenberry, a fellow church member. “She was a wonderful lady—a real go-getter,” Ann said.

Doris invested in WMU for a reason—she believed in its work, and it spurred her on. After she read a missions study on Japan, she visited the country twice. She once felt such a burden for an orphanage in Egypt that she spent a month serving there.

And up until recently, she was still going on missions trips, standing out in the hot sun to help people in need all day long—and outlasting people half her age without so much as a complaint.

“Mom was very feisty,” Angela said. “We couldn’t stop her, so we just let her go until she was ready to stop.”

Doris Ragan in Egypt.jpg

Doris’ grandson, Jonathan Sloan, said one of the places her zest for life showed was in her garden.

“She was a master gardener and had amazing exotic plants in her backyard—many she took from her travels,” he said. “She knew every plant by its scientific name and also created more than two hundred flower arrangements a year for public libraries, civic receptions, and shut-ins.”

She nurtured flowers, and she nurtured everyone around her, Jonathan said. She spent more than five hundred hours every year serving the community. The city of Tavares declared “Doris Ragan Day” on two separate occasions. The mayor called her the “ultimate community volunteer.”

Jonathan said his Nana didn’t think what she did was anything out of the ordinary. He said when she was asked about it, she simply said, “Jesus was a servant. He was the one who washed the feet of His disciples. While we’re here on this earth, I believe we’re here to serve.”

Because of her legacy of service, her WMU group purchased a brick in her name for the Walk of Faith at national WMU headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama. Their gift honors the memory of Doris’ passion for missions and invests in the future of WMU’s ministry.

“She was a special person, someone who never stopped going and giving,” Ann said.

For more information about how to honor a past or present missions hero on the Walk of Faith, visit wmufoundation.com/walkoffaith.

Zachariah Seanor

Director of Mission Advancement