Julius Ray "J.R." Tapley, of Groesbeck, passed away on Saturday, April 8, 2017 at St. Catherine's Center in Waco, at age 87. J. R. left behind his beloved wife and family here, but he was ready to meet his Maker, knowing he had a beautiful home waiting for him in Heaven with his Lord and Savior, and had been waiting for the Lord to bring him home.
Visitation will be held at Groesbeck Funeral Home on Thursday, April 13, 2017, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Funeral services will be held at First Baptist Church in Groesbeck (306 N. Ellis St.) at 11 a.m. on Friday, April 14, 2017, with Reverend Darrell Owens and Reverend Troy Brooks officiating. Special music will be offered by a granddaughter, Tabitha Wallheimer. Burial will follow in Malakoff Cemetery.
Pallbearers will be Tommy Rutledge, Tracy Tooke, Ryan Peña, Eric Thomas, Dwayne Pusley and Chandler Copley.
J. R. was born April 13, 1929 in Malakoff to James Walter Tapley and Mae Pearl Rogers Tapley. He lost his father while he was a young fellow, and quit school after eighth grade to work to support his family.
He met Mary Lou Perkins, who graduated from Athens High School, and wanted to take her to the "Pink Elephant." But since her mother said she could not go out of the city limits, he took her sister instead. However, he and Mary Lou fell in love, and J.R. and Mary Lou were united in marriage on August 9, 1947.
While still living in Malakoff their son Ray was born, and a dresser drawer was his crib. His mom had been looking forward to a baby girl, and dressed Ray in girl's hair bows and dresses for a while. A few years later, another son, Michael Dale, was born. Not thinking there would be any more children, J. R. was thrilled when a daughter, Teresa, was born while they were living in Houston. He snuck the two boys through the hospital window to see their baby sister.
While living in Houston, everyone called J.R. "Curly," due to his curly hair. He worked as a truck driver, and became an expert welder, which was his primary career. He worked for Hess Oil Company doing industrial welding, and was chosen to teach welding for a 4-month period in the Virgin Islands. He was a member of Pipefitters Local 211. The family lived in Houston for 30 years, where he also was co-owner of a pipe fabrication shop, Pasadena Steel Products.
J. R. had a dream of leaving the hustle and bustle of Houston, and moving to the country to raise cattle. About 26 years ago, he realized his dream when he and Mary Lou built a home near Groesbeck. He did not move to the country, however, to retire. After clearing his land, and establishing his cattle ranch, he worked for the public, bulldozing, digging tanks, building fences, baling hay and welding.
J. R. was raised in the Assembly of God church, but he and Mary Lou were members of the First Baptist Church of Groesbeck for many years. He was so loud in his verbal response to the sermons that his seat was named the "Amen Corner."
Eight years ago, Reverend J. R. Tapley accepted the pastorship of the Lost Prairie Baptist Church, where he and Mary Lou were very devoted to the members and the work of the Lord, until his health became too frail this past November.
J. R.'s health began to fail exactly two years before his death, on April 8, 2015, when he was attacked by killer bees, while pushing down a tree with his open-cab tractor. Perhaps his greatest sermon was his recounting of how the Lord chose to let him live two more years after this horrible day. J. R. had previously been attacked by bees, and on the previous attack, God told him to get in front of the tractor, so the engine could suck the bees off him. On this occasion, as he fell off the tractor, he asked God what to do, and God told him to get back on the tractor, and start backing up. He had bees over all his body, in his eyes, in his ears, in his mouth, and down his throat. God guided him, while he could not see, in how to get to the highway, where the property owner had already summoned an ambulance.
The doctors at Waco told him he probably would not survive, as two other men who were also attacked around the same time did not live. However, J. R. knew God still was not finished with the work for which he was called.
J. R. was the rock and the strength that held his family together. And J. R. felt the call of the Lord in many decisions for helping others. He truly devoted his life to the Lord, his family, and helping others change their lives. During his life, he had loved to be outdoors, to go the Pusley family ranch in the Hill Country hunting wild turkeys, and working outside. He found it hard to be confined inside the past year. But his testimony from his experience was "God does speak to you," and "God is able, where it is his will, to work a miracle in your life," as he did in J.R.'s life.
J. R. was preceded in death by: his parents; his brothers, James Walter Tapley, Jr. and Clarence Tapley; a son, Michael Dale Tapley; and a grandson, Michael Ray Tapley.
He is survived by: his wife of 70 years, Mary Lou Tapley; his son and daughter-in-law, Walter "Ray" and Sheila Tapley of Beach City; his daughter and son-in-law, Teresa and Dwayne Pusley of Mountain Home; five grandchildren and their spouses: Leslie and Eric Thomas, Tabitha and Eric Wallheimer, Tiffanie and Ronnie Vaughan, Stephanie Hardin, and Ryan Peña. Also, there are 11 great grandchildren: Jaden and Jax Thomas; Evan Spivey and Easton and Eden Wallheimer; Jordyn Bailey, Kennedi, Gavin and Elin Vaughan; Chandler Copley and Avery Hardin.
Published on April 11, 2017