Ray U. Urban
U. S. Marines
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 02/06/1942 - 06/05/1952
, VMF-212

Ray was born as one of three brothers to Michael John Urban and Florence Viola McSwain Urban in Bogalusa, Louisiana, where his father ran a commissary for sawmills. The family moved to Columbia, Louisiana where his father worked for a retail store, then re-located to Philadelphia, Mississippi. There his dad ran a five-and-ten cent store as manager and part owner. Ray recalls Choctaw Indians in the coming into the store wearing robes. After losing his job in the Depression, the elder Urban began selling wholesale groceries as a traveling salesman, or "drummer" as they were called at the time. Like most families, the Urbans had little, but young Ray never realized it. "I didn't know we were poor. If you didn't have anything you didn't miss it," he recalls of the 1930s. A brother helped by sending home money (actually script) he earned as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Young Ray worked, too. When a courthouse in Philadelphia, Mississippi was demolished, he and other "kids" were paid to take mortar off the old bricks for a penny a brick. He also sold Liberty magazines, earning a dime if he sold ten. Hotter work awaited on Saturday mornings in the early fall, when he picked cotton, earning 50 cents for 50 pounds. He recalls hobos traveling from town to town, looking for certain marks on fence posts, noting that they were welcome to a meal. Most paid for their food by cutting firewood or other chores. "The hobos at that time would want to work for whatever they got," he said. The family moved on to Yazoo City where the family lived in a 50-room hotel his mother ran and cooked family-style meals for boarders. Ray worked as a bellhop. Meanwhile, the family worshiped at Methodist churches. At his mother's urging, he took piano lessons, played the violin, and was a snare drummer and tuba player in the school band. The family eventually moved to Alexandria, Louisiana, where Ray graduated from Bolton High School in 1939. He then entered Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Mississippi, stayed one semester then entered Louisiana Tech for one semester. He transferred to Louisiana College in Pineville and drove an ice cream truck to army camps in 1940 and 1941 during the Louisiana Maneuvers. Ray was attending Louisiana Tech when Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941. He enlisted in January of 1942, joining the U.S. Marine Corps. He went through training in San Diego where he went into parachute training but was felled by kidney stones. He was placed in a casual platoon in November of 1942 when he saw a notice for a need for aviation mechanics at a naval air station at Norman, Oklahoma. He was sent to El Toro Marine Corps Air Base near Santa Ana, California. A major took him in to work in his supply office, where he was known as an engineering clerk. He was soon a technical sergeant. In June of 1943 he went overseas to Midway as part of a squadron, VMF212. "We didn't' see any action. You stay there three months, you watch the gooney birds and after that they watched you," he quips. He was sent on to Espiritu Santos, where he lived in a Dallas hut, so named for the housing's construction in Dallas. He was stationed in the Russell Island, then landed on Bougainville on D+10 November 1944, ten days after the invasion of that island. Ray was often bombed by Japanese, and crouched in foxholes topped with coconut logs and sand bags. Ray returned to Hawaii from Green Island in December of 1945 then sailed aboard the USS Prince William to America where he was sent to Marine Corps Auxiliary Air Base in Kingston, North Carolina as NCO in charge. Ray left the service in January of 1946 and went to work for D&M Hardware and Sporting Goods. Soon he met Jonellywyn Roberts at First Methodist Church in Alexandria. They married in June of 1946 and would have four children, seven grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren. Ray earned a degree in accounting from Alexandria Business College while working as a bookkeeper for a lumber company. He served eight years as a deputy sheriff, and as a comptroller for a department store chain. Ray divorced and moved to Shreveport where he married Freda Styles Essex. They opened the Taco Bells in the Shreveport-Bossier City area. Freda passed away in 1996. He and Freda were the first king and queen of Mardi Gras. Ray is a member of the Marine Corps League, finance officer for American Legion, and trustee for VFW Post #4588. He's also a member of the Sheriff's Posse, and patrols "three or four times a week".