On December 18, 2023, Captain Ray. D. Hoover began his final flight to his Heavenly destination. Ray was born in 1944 in Woodbury, TN, the son of the late Issac Lehman Hoover and Kelly Alexander (White) Hoover.
Raised on a small farm in Woodbury, Ray always had his eyes turned skyward during his chores. At an early age, he decided to fly airplanes and raised sheep, cattle, and pigs to earn money for his flight lessons. Ever the goal-oriented and determined young man, he worked hard in school, earning Cannon County High School’s Four Square Award in 1962, the highest award bestowed to a graduating senior. Ray was a Boy Scout and, as a high school sophomore, earned the rank of Eagle Scout. He was the first boy in Cannon County, TN, to achieve this rank.
After high school, Ray attended Middle Tennessee State College with a declared major in chemical engineering. However, he insisted on only taking the classes he deemed fun, such as math and science classes and his Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) courses. Ray was a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) for Mid State Flight School in Murfreesboro, TN, when he wasn’t attending class. Fortunately for Ray, he only had to take some of those other classes required for a degree due to receiving a phone call from United Airlines offering him his dream job of becoming an Airline Pilot.
On December 28, 1964, Ray began flying for United Airlines, where he enjoyed 38 years, 5 months, and 4 days of what he called the best job in the world. He flew over 22,000 hours in the Friendly Skies of United, connecting people and uniting the world in the Douglas DC-6, Boeing 727, and Boeing 777. He maintained a perfect safety record until his retirement in May 2003.
In 1966, Ray felt obligated to serve his country and enlisted in the Tennessee Air National Guard. He served as a radio repair specialist and electrical technician while achieving the rank of Staff Sergeant. In 1968, he married his high school’s homecoming queen and love of his life, Betty Mason Hoover. Ray and Betty were married for 50 wonderful years before Betty preceded Ray in death in 2018. After Betty’s passing, Ray always liked to joke that he was happily married for 50 years to only one woman, not the sum total of multiples!
Ray loved to share his passion for aviation. He gave countless rides to children and members of the community. He volunteered for the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles Program, flying over 300 young people in his Piper J-3 Cub. He gave numerous hours of flight instruction to so many. Several aviation careers can be directly attributed to Ray’s mentoring and role modeling including his daughter, Dianna, who he taught how to fly and is also a Captain for United Airlines.
In 2020, Ray was honored by Scouts BSA by being presented with the Good Scout Award for exemplifying the ideals of Scouts BSA as expressed in the Scout Oath and Law. In 2023, Ray was honored by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, recognizing his contributions to aviation and for maintaining a perfect safety record for over 50 years of aviating.
Ray was active in the vibrant aviation community at Winchester Regional Airport and was a very active member of Southside Church of Christ on Papermill Road for 42 years.
Ray is survived by his daughter, Dianna Hoover Klein, her husband, Mark Klein, and two grandsons.
A Celebration of Life will be held for Ray on Saturday, January 13, 2024, at 10am with a service to follow at 11am at Omps Funeral Home, Amherst Chapel. Ray requested those authorized to wear an airline or military uniform are welcome to do so in his honor at the event.
In place of flowers, donations in Ray’s name can be made to the Gary Sinise Foundation via https://www.garysinisefoundation.org/donate or by mail via the address below:
Gary Sinise Foundation
PO Box 40726
Nashville, TN 37204