Everett Durham, Jr., “Big Red,” passed away at the age of 90 years old in Cleveland, OH on Sunday, April 25, 2021. Everett, the first-born child of Everett Durham, Sr. (“Mister”) and Ruth (Sherman) Durham, was born December 12, 1930, in Parrott, GA. He was the oldest of eleven children.
Growing up, he was often tasked with caring for his younger siblings, while his father and mother worked the fields of their 210-acre family farm. During those early years, he learned how to be a skilled farmer, but also was taught about discipline and hard work. Though Everett had little formal schooling, as he would say, he only got to go to school on rainy days, he learned to read with the help of his Aunt Ora and he took pleasure in reading the Sunday comics.
At 16 years old, Everett left home seeking his independence and determined to be self-sufficient, moving first to Jacksonville, Florida to stay with his Aunt Lula Mae (Durham) Kirkland. Eventually, his path lead him 40 miles north of Jacksonville to the small town of Folkston, where he met and married his wife Ralphaelita, “Raffie” of 71 years on February 5, 1950.
They would go on to have five children, Earl, Willeen, Deborah, Marilyn (deceased), and Eric.
Everett worked tirelessly to support his young and growing family, performing harsh labor cutting timber during the day, doing landscaping work in the evenings, and on Sundays shining shoes in the town center. All the while, in his spare time, he worked to build a family home, one room at a time. He selected each piece of pine lumber used in the construction of the home and his wife would assist him passing him nails as he built. Some evenings he was accompanied into the wee hours of the night by his daughter Deborah, who being a night owl, enjoyed being by her father’s side.
Not long after completing his new house, he visited Cleveland during the summer of 1959, staying two weeks while on vacation. Working with his brothers for just a short period, he was able to earn more in two days than he could earn in two weeks in Georgia. He soon realized that the opportunity to advance was far greater in the north than in the south.
Upon his return to Folkston, it was decided the family would pack up and move to Cleveland, OH. They did so, arriving in Cleveland, January 10, 1960. At first, he poured concrete and built garages with his brothers. Later he worked at East Ohio Gas Company in the maintenance department, eventually training as a welder. He continued to work with the Gas Company as a welder until he opened up his own business, April 15, 1978 alongside his wife. Their restaurant “Sister Raffie’s Seafood” located in their neighborhood of Glenville became a Cleveland stable and was in operation for 37 years until Everett and Raffie’s retirement.
Everett loved to travel, having driven all over the U.S. and even across the country in his silver 1978 Mercedes (which was always kept spotless) with his wife Raffie. Everett was a huge NASCAR fan, loved old-time blues and country music, and was an avid gardener. He was known to have a green thumb, maintaining a meticulous yard with a glorious flowerbed. Those who knew him best can attest to his no-nonsense demeanor, but caring and generous nature. He loved sweets, especially Godiva chocolate. But most importantly he loved and would do anything for his family.
He will be sorely missed by his wife, Raffie; his children, Earl (Gayle) Durham, Willeen Childress, Deborah (Darryl) Pittman, and Eric Durham (fiancé Sophia Dawn White); his grandchildren, Anthony Durham, Amira (Briane) Durham Robinson, Rashid (Jennifer) Durham, Raushanna Durham, Ike Childress, Brandon (Brandie) Childress, Jazmine Childress, Jordan (Laticia) Pittman, Cassi (Adam) Pittman Claytor, Nolan Pittman; 15 great-grandchildren; as well as his brother, Quinton Durham; and his sisters, Ruth Little, Helen Bryant, and Mary Wylene Daniel; and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends.
He was preceded in death by his beloved parents; baby sister, Barbara Jean; his brothers Otis (d. 1980), Carey (d. 2013), Charlie (d. 2020), Cleveland (d. 2016), Roy (Joe) Durham (d. 2005); and his daughter Marilyn Durham (d. 1981).
The viewing was Sunday, May 2, 2021. The funeral was graveside at Lakeview Cemetery on Monday, May 3, 2021. Calhoun Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
In lieu of sending flowers, we ask that you donate to the Everett Durham Memorial Fund to help us build a garden in his honor to celebrate one of his lifelong hobbies.