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Wilma “Louise” Combs Ratliff, a lifelong resident of Morgan County, made a peaceful transition from this world safe into the arms of her Lord on Sunday, November 12, 2023. The youngest of 4 children, she was born in the Great Depression era on Tuesday, January16, 1934, at Panama – Centerville to Ed and Eula Elam Combs. In addition to her parents, she was preceded in death by her husband of 55 years, Billy Curtis Ratliff, on January 6, 2007, and a son, Ralph Lane Ratliff, on February 24, 2021. Her only brother, Ralph Randolph Combs, was the victim of a fatal gunshot wound at age 24 after returning from Korea in 1950. She was also preceded in death by 2 sisters, Anna Maxine Combs and Marvin Wallace, and Betty Jean Combs and Thomas Arnold, sister-in-law, Geneva Ratliff and Byron Alspaugh, father-in-law and mother-in-law, Elmer and Lena Brown Ratliff, grandparents, Noah and Lizzie Ann Sargent Elam, Hezekiah and Martha Ellen Hudson Combs, nephew, Larry Michael Cox, and great-granddaughter, Ella Ratliff.
Her 4 surviving children are a daughter, Billie Karen and Dexter Darrell Evans, and 3 sons, Steven Keith and Marjorie Sue (Hill) Ratliff, Kevin Alan and Debra Lynn (Patrick) Ratliff, and Kim Scott Ratliff, all of West Liberty, and daughter-in-law, Cheryl Lea (Phipps) Ratliff.
Her surviving grandchildren are Dexter Brian and Jenny (Wright) Evans, Brandon Curtis and Jenna (Montgomery) Evans, Steven Wesley Ratliff and Norma Elam, Shawn Alan and Wendy (Keim) Ratliff, Eli Ratliff, Tori Ratliff, all of West Liberty, Billy Scott Ratliff, and Trevor Larkin and Elizabeth Ratliff.
Her surviving great grandchildren are Dexter Blake, Jenna Briley, Macie Layne, and Pierce Curtis Evans, Jeremiah, Heidi, Madelyn Rose, Leo, Julian, Carter, and Reagan Ratliff, Ryder Whitt, Annabelle Griffitts and Abigail Elam.
Her surviving nieces and nephews are Lisa and Steve Filbrun and Rusty McCabe of Ohio, Lori Silverman of Maryland, Tom and Kathy Arnold of Louisville, and Dan and Beth Arnold of Alabama.
On Sundays, Louise’s family visited her grandparents. From there, a group would walk on to Index Church with other groups joining them along the way. At the age of 9, her parents moved the family to West Liberty for the opportunity to attend high school. She attended the United Methodist Church where her Sunday School teacher was Mrs. Walter Gardner. She graduated on May 24 in the Morgan County High School class of 1951. She took pleasure in reuniting with her classmates at the class reunions.
On Monday, September 18, 1951, she married Billy, her high school sweetheart. Rev. Harlan Murphy performed the ceremony at his home on Glenn Avenue in West Liberty with Millard Sheets and Edna Whitt as witnesses.
While Billy was deployed to Korea, Louise gave birth to their firstborn and lived with her parents until his return. They moved to Wrigley in 1954 where they lived until 1993 when they returned to the property of her parents in West Liberty.
Louise accepted the Lord into her heart during the summer of 1966 at a church in Miami, FL while visiting her sister. She fulfilled the scriptural requirement of baptism along with her daughter in September 1971 at the West Liberty Christian Church by Rev. Carl Faulkner. When the Wrigley Community Church consolidated with Index Community Church in about 1980, she returned to the church of her childhood.
Her willingness to volunteer in church ministries included serving as Sunday School teacher, in the card ministry, church treasurer, a choir member, a church board member, directed the Ladies Ministry, and served as a hostess at the Ladies Retreat in 1999 at Cliffview Resort.
Louise was honored by Index Church on July 4, 2010 for her service. A DVD presentation was shown. Participants in the tribute as speakers were Gay Wilson, Sandy Adkins, and some family members, and a soloist who dedicated a song to her.
On October 28, 2023, Louise was named the honoree of the Ky Mountain Holiness Association (KMHA) Ladies Retreat that was held at Lakeview Community Church. Her tribute was presented by Diane Ferguson Helton.
Louise was commissioned to the Order of KY Colonels in 1976. She worked at numerous places of employment: Alonzo Elam’s Restaurant (her uncle), a representative for Avon, Garry Elam’s Rexall Drug, Gateway Community Services, A Support Service Aide for the KY Dep. Of Social Services in 1975 working with the elderly, while being the bookkeeper for 12 years for Ratliff Trucking.
After raising her 5 children, Louise enrolled as a non-traditional student at Morehead State University with a major in Sociology and a minor in Corrections. She graduated cum laude with a BA degree on May 14, 1988, and was initiated into Pi Gamma Mu, the international honor society in Social Science.
Louise became a Family Service Worker in 1989. This job called her out at all hours, sometimes under threatening circumstances. She was an advocate for many Morgan County families and committed to meeting the needs and protecting adults and children and the placement of foster children. Many continued to correspond with her after retirement. Once teenage client wrote to her, “You have always been so sweet, nice, and kind to me, and I want to thank you.”
On November 12, 1990, she was presented the highest honor given to a Social Worker in KY, the Paul T. Grannis Award, by the KY Secretary and Commissioner for professionalism, community involvement, initiative, and innovativeness. Afterward, on February 14, 1991, she was recognized by the Commonwealth General Assembly House of Representatives. Resolution Number 102 was adopted honoring her for outstanding performance by a caseworker.
Louise, along with Loretta Terrell, was honored with a retirement party in July, 1999, at Natural Bridge State Park. She loved and stayed in touch with her former co-workers as long as her health permitted.
Louise shared many family stories and memories. Among them were attending Centerville School. Her first teacher, Glennon Peyton, was a casualty of WW II. She shared about the nights she spent with school friends, some of them being Marie Perkins, Nancy Steele, Naomi Peyton, Sylvia Johnston, Joyce Wells, Janice Combs, and Clara Jean Gevedon (her mother would French braid Louise’s hair). She laughingly recalled the times she and her sisters would follow and listen to their Grandpap Hezekiah Combs (a former two term Morgan County Jailer) talk to himself. His hearing was failing and when he discovered them, he would shake his cane at them. Louise would conclude with, “Wasn’t that mean of us?” She also recalled the beauty of her dad’s matched team of red horses with white between their eyes, Old Dan and Old Bill.
She would reminisce about their move to West Liberty. They would be contacted from City Hall that their cow was downtown. The sister that was available would walk downtown and lead her back to pasture. They would swing across the creek on grapevines, cool down by playing in the creek and culvert, and roller skate down the hall in the old courthouse. She loved sports including to watch her sons, grandson, and great-grandson play basketball and baseball, and her great-granddaughter in pageants and dance. She enjoyed watching the Cincinnati Reds, KY Wildcat basketball, WLJC. She loved feeding and watching the birds and working in her flowers. She was in awe of the beauty of autumn colors and falling snow.
Louise loved to travel and appreciated God’s creation. She toured much of our country with her daughter and family, as well as with tour groups to numerous foreign countries, with the Holy Land being her favorite.
Louise approached life with a positive attitude, not only teaching the values necessary to live our lives, but also for eternity and she was consistent in demonstrating that. She supported her family with unconditional love, respect, and perspective for the most important things in life. She modeled the importance of forgiveness, church attendance, tithing, prayer, of loving and helping others. She was committed to the wisdom of God’s Word by reading through the Bible 12 times, the last count we heard.
As her wedding vows “til death do us part” were fulfilled, we sadly observed as she mourned the passing of her spouse of 55 years, until the memories gradually faded. Her spirit has now been carried by the angels to her heavenly destination. Her suffering is over. She is alive, happy, and well, now face-to-face with her Savior. Her long-lived testimony is her ultimate final legacy left to her family.
Funeral service 1 p.m., Wednesday, November 15, 2023 at the Potter Funeral Home with Rev. Mike Frisby & Bro. Jason Moore officiating. Burial to follow in the Ratliff Family Cemetery, Wrigley, KY. Visitation from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., Wednesday, November 15, 2023 at the funeral home.
Pallbearers: Grandsons & Great Grandson
In lieu of flowers, the family request memorial donations be made to Index Community Church or Woodsbend Community Church.
Index Community Church
1749 W. Main Street, West Liberty KY 41472
Woodsbend Community Church
4605 Hwy 705, West Liberty KY 41472