Ret./M. Sgt. Rhuel Sperry, age 87 of Niceville, FL., quietly passed into eternal rest on Friday, April 26, 2019 at Chautauqua Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in DeFuniak Springs, FL after a brief illness. Rhuel (pronounced Rule) was born August 14, 1931 at home to David G. and Celia E. (Roberts) Sperry-Sperry. A Methodist by faith, he was the last surviving member of his immediate family. Preceded in death by his parents, brother James D. “Jay” Sperry, sister Sarah (Sperry) Bruno, also Russell and Virginia Lee in infancy, son in law, William “Bill” Holloway. Most recently the oldest grandchild, Tiffany M. (Holloway) Smith on Wed. April 24, 2019, as well as her husband, Roy L. Smith, on March 22, 2019.
He is survived by his wife and childhood sweetheart of 66 yrs., Audrey J. (Leaper) Sperry. They met in the third grade and married on Sept. 30, 1952 at College Station-Bryan, TX. Survived by these children; Debbie (Cliff) Kelley Pineville, LA., Jeff Sperry, Freeport, FL., (Twins) Kevin Sperry, Springfield, LA and Karen Holloway, Mossy Head, FL, Jay Sperry, Freeport, FL, daughter in law, Mary L. (Stefanick) Sperry, Grandchildren; Jennifer (Holloway) Corey wife of Randall, Justin and Travis Holloway, all of Mossy Head, FL., Britteny (Kelley) Adams wife of Ben, Baton Rouge, LA, Brandon R. Kelley, Pineville, LA, Jason Sperry and wife Rosie, Bryan Sperry, Joseph Sperry, all of Freeport, FL, and Benjamin R. “Ben” Sperry, Springfield, LA. There are also eleven great grandchildren; Kellie and Tyler (Amber) Smith, Bailey and Keaton Corey, Paytan Holloway, Abigail “Abby” and twins, Evan and Sophie Sperry, Sarah Renea Sperry, Leighla Lou Sperry- Decker, Jalyn Audrey Sperry, twins Annie and Rilee Adams, and little brother Carson.
Rhuel grew up in a loving home surrounded by many relatives in the small town of Patton, in western PA. Rhuel had the idyllic childhood, reminiscent of the hometown of Bedford Falls in the movie classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Rhuel had fond memories of his childhood especially stories about his ponies Silver and Tony. Silver, a Shetland pony, ended up being a little too spirited when he took off wildly through town with a very young Rhuel in the cart behind holding on tight as he tells the story. It was after this, Rhuel received Tony, a Welsh pony. He loved his dog Bowzer, a Feitz, used to hunt squirrels. Rhuel’s elderly Uncle Ben, who lived in the same home, was a confirmed bachelor and avid sportsman. Rhuel often talked of their many fishing and hunting adventures and helping with all of his Uncle Ben’s beagles. Growing up, the family would often travel to Frostburg, MD., to visit extended family members of both his grandparents, the Sperry’s, Morgan’s, Bishop’s, Green’s, Brophy’s, Filer’s and so many more. As Rhuel grew older his passion to serve in the military was inspired by a long family line of military members, but mostly by his older brother Jay, who was killed in Burma, India, while serving in WWII. Rhuel served honorably in the Air Corp and then U.S. Air Force where he was awarded two Distinguished Flying Cross Medals, five Air Medals and a Meritorious Service Medal before retiring after 26 years of service. It was while flying missions over Vietnam that he was exposed to Agent Orange and would later in life suffer the ill effects of, and eventually claim his life. He and Audrey decided to remain in the FL panhandle after his military retirement. In civilian life Rhuel was employed with the City of Niceville, later with Metric Systems, and Kel-Tech in FWB until officially retiring at age 62. He would later return to work for Hertz Rental cars at the airport. Over the years Rhuel was known by several nicknames such as Slide or Slide Rule, Smokey for the cigars he smoked years ago, and in his youth, as “Stink” for tipping over an outhouse!
His hobbies were reading books on military conflicts, guns, and at one time, making his own bullets, to use at the firing range, following sports and watching the History Channel, as well as being an avid ham radio operator. Rhuel and Audrey often traveled back to PA visiting with family and friends. Their last trip was in Aug 2009 for their 60th High School Reunion and the Christening of their youngest grandchild, Benjamin R. Sperry, in the family church, the First U.M.C., in Patton. He especially loved to hear about the family genealogy. Rhuel was a strict disciplinarian but fair when it came to his children and grandchildren. He was a loving husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather who will be missed dearly.
A very special thank you for the loving care and attention to everyone at Chautauqua Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, and especially to Regency Hospice, who not only provided hospice support but most importantly provided spiritual support, which was of great comfort to Rhuel and his family.
There will be a time of visitation held from 5-7 p.m., Thursday, May 2, 2019 at Heritage Gardens Funeral Home in Niceville, FL. The Funeral Service will be held on Friday, May 3, 2019 beginning at 10 a.m. at Heritage Gardens Funeral Home, with Interment to follow in Barrancas National Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations may also be made in Rhuel’s name to the charity of your choice.