Some stories are harder to write than others. Writing a tribute to man like Ranny Stephens is nearly impossible. Words do not do justice to the mark he left on this community, when he died on April 15 after a battle with cancer.
Born July 8, 1947, in the Barrineau community of Clarendon County, he was the son of the late Archie Lee Stephens and the late Ruby Bennett Stephens.
He graduated from Timmonsville High School and was a highly decorated U.S. Army veteran, having received two Bronze Stars for his valor in the Viet Nam War.
A graduate of Simmons School of Embalming and Mortuary Science in Syracuse, he was the owner and operator of Stephens Funeral Home and Crematory and a member of the DAV, VVA, VFW, American Legion Williams-Burgess Post 68 and the Manning First Baptist Church.
He met his wife while studying in New York and brought her to Clarendon County where they have made their home for more than 40 years. Together they have three children, Shayne, Ranny Jr. and Randi Lyn. Pam and Ranny are blessed with eight grandchildren.
When trying to go beyond the facts found in a regular obituary, it seemed only fitting to ask some of the men whom Ranny selected to carry him to his final resting place, about the kind of man he was. Ironically, they were almost of one voice.
Manning native Ed Gamble started working with Ranny when Gamble was just 17 years old.
“I always thought I would follow the rest of my family into law enforcement,” Gamble said. “Ranny gave me the foundation I have today in my own funeral home business and I owe my success to him. I feel like he was my best friend and I think he would have told you that as well.”
Gamble said Ranny was the “consummate professional.”
“He never forgot where he came from and could relate to anyone.”
Gamble said it was Ranny’s heart and his genuine nature that made him a “man’s man” and a role model for all he encountered.
“Without a doubt he loved his family, his country and his fellow man … he was just it,” Gamble added.
Ranny served as Clarendon County’s coroner for 20 years. A 24/7 job, he touched thousands of lives in Clarendon County, often at the hardest of times.
When Ranny decided to retire from the coroner’s position, he encouraged his good friend Hayes Samuels to take up the coroner’s reins.
“He was a true friend of mine,” Samuels said. “Our families were as close as any two families could be. His personality and the way he carried himself always reminded me of Rambo. It did not matter who you were or where you came from, he would help anyone. He was an exemplary professional and a true family man.”
Samuels said he was thankful that the professional standards that Ranny set would be continued by his son, Shayne.
“I know Shayne will step up to the plate and deliver the same level of service to his community that Ranny did.”
Sheriff Randy Garrett said that he met Ranny in 1975.
“We shared the best friendship that anyone could ever ask for,” Garrett said. “He treated me like I was his younger brother.”
Garrett said that Ranny and Pam made their home his home and his three daughters were welcomed there like they were the Stephens’ own.
“When my daughter Brittney graduated from high school, Ranny and Pam opened their home so Brittney and her friends could celebrate that night,” Garrett recalled. “The girls spent the night in the Stephens’ pool house and at three o’clock in the morning, Ranny was right there with them having a big time.”
Garrett said that Ranny taught him how to greet and talk to people.
“No matter where they came from or what status in life they had, Ranny treated everyone the same. He never forgot his own humble beginnings and treated everyone as if they were the most important people in the world.”
Garrett noted Ranny’s generosity to the community.
“He gave so much to this county and never wanted any credit or recognition for it,” the sheriff said. “He just wanted people to have what they needed. In the coming weeks, I believe we will learn just how giving a man Ranny Stephens was and what a vacancy his passing is going to leave in this community.
“I think about him every day and I am going to miss him every day. We all are. He was such an asset to this community,” Garrett added. “I didn’t just like Ranny Stephens, I loved him. Manning and Clarendon County are going to miss him for a long time. He never forgot his people and they won’t ever forget him.”
Funeral services were held on April 18 in the chapel of Stephens Funeral Home. Burial followed at Clarendon Memorial Gardens.
Memorials may be made to Manning First Baptist Church (49 W. Boyce Street) or Amedisys Hospice (2555 Lin-Do Court, Sumter, 29150).
Ranny loved his friends, his family and his community. There is little doubt that his friends, family and community loved him too.