- Associated Press - Friday, December 23, 2016

RICHLANDS, N.C. (AP) - Areletha Parker says it’s a relief that her late son Kenny Ray now has a headstone marking his resting place in the family cemetery.

The youngest of six siblings, Kenny Ray excelled at sports such as basketball and baseball before he drowned at the age of 13 in summer of 1986.

“Oh Lord, this is going to make me cry I’m so happy right. He was gone way too soon but this is great, it’s just so wonderful,” Areletha said.

Brothers, sisters, cousins and friends of Kenny Ray gathered to remember his legacy.

Kenny Ray received a handsome headstone during a short dedication ceremony held on the afternoon of Dec. 17 in Richlands, located near 1459 Beulaville Hwy.

The cemetery is tucked away between woods and an older farm house off Beulaville Hwy just before the county line.

The Parker Family Cemetery where Kenny Ray Parker is buried is the oldest black cemetery in Onslow County and has many of his mother’s family there also, including Areletha’s mother, mother-in-law, brother-in-law and cousins.

Kenny Ray’s older brother Cory Parker said during the ceremony that the headstone “means a lot for our family and I know it would mean a lot to Kenny Ray. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for this.”

Former teammate Mark Riggs led the ceremony and spoke on how and why he made the initiative to remember his childhood friend.

“Even years after he had passed away people would ask where he was or what happened to him. I mean the guy was going to be a professional athlete there’s just no doubt about it,” Riggs said.

Riggs said he went to pay his respects to Kenny Ray, but couldn’t find where he was buried in the family cemetery.

There was no headstone.

Because of this, 13 former teammates who played basketball and baseball with Kenny Ray came together to purchase the headstone for their friend and the Parker family.

“Everybody pitched in a little bit for the headstone and I feel good about it. Merry Christmas,” Riggs said at the ceremony.


Information from: The Daily News, https://www.jdnews.com

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