Raymond E. Defenbaugh, 73, of Biggsville, IL, passed away at 8:20 a.m. on Wednesday, January 22, 2020 at the Great River Medical Center, West Burlington, IA.
Ray was born March 8, 1946 in Streator, IL the son of Charles and Esther (Koltveit) Defenbaugh. Ray was raised on the family farm in rural Manville, IL. He graduated from Woodland High School in 1964 and pursued higher education at Southern IL University in Carbondale, IL. Ray graduated in 1968 with a degree in Ag Education. He later obtained a master’s degree in Agriculture Economics with emphasis on Agriculture Finance from Southern IL University.
Ray married Alice J. Norris on June 12, 1967 in Streator, IL.
Ray often shared the main tenet that had guided him through life: Faith, Family and Community.
Ray was a member of the Apostolic Christian Church. Were he here today, he would tell you that coming to know and accept the gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ is the most important thing one can do with our time on this Earth.
Ray’s ambition as a young man was always to farm, but a tragic accident at the age of 17 changed the course of his life. He was electrocuted in the accident and fought through a long recovery period, in which he lost part of his right arm due to infection. The physical setbacks he endured as a result of the accident left him unable to farm and he set his sights on higher education. After graduation from college, Ray taught ag education at Cornell High School in Cornell, IL. In 1970 Ray took a job with The National Bank of Monmouth (now Midwest Bank of Western IL) where he worked as a loan officer, farm manager and appraiser until 1983 when he began farming full time. Ray was actively involved with the farm until early 2001 when he began working with local Iowa and Illinois farmers to build a farmer owned ethanol plant.
Ray was a founding member, president, CEO, and chairman of Big River Resources, LLC. He was instrumental in raising funds to build the companies first ethanol plant in West Burlington, IA. Today, Big River Resources, LLC employs over 300 people and operates four ethanol plants in three states as well as operates numerous grain elevator facilities. Ray served and had leadership roles on many ethanol industry related boards, including: the Illinois and Iowa Renewable Fuels Associations, National Renewable Fuels Association, Urban Air Initiative, American Coalition for Ethanol and Growth Energy.
Ray served as chairman on the Midwest Bank of Western Illinois board as well as vice president of Western Illinois Bancshares, Inc. He served as a board member for the Pattee Foundation, Absolute Energy, LLC, U.S. Grains Council, National Grain and Feed Association and Big River United Energy, LLC.
Ray enjoyed spending time on the farm, attending family functions, hunting, and frequenting pawn shops to find a new “treasure”. He was known to pick up many a hitchhiker, drove too fast, was seldom “on-time” (despite having a large collection of old clocks) and had a unique ability to talk to anyone as if he’d known them for a lifetime.
Surviving Ray is his wife, Alice; his children, Daniel (Johanna) Defenbaugh of Kirkwood, IL, Matthew (Melissa Shields) Defenbaugh of Biggsville, IL, Jennifer (Mark) Kinneer of Kirkwood, IL and Deborah (John) Green of Little York, IL; his grandchildren, Nathan Defenbaugh, Ella Defenbaugh, Nicholas Defenbaugh, Isabel Defenbaugh, Noah Defenbaugh, Luke Kinneer, Caleb Kinneer, Zack Kinneer, Dylan Green & Justin Green; his siblings John (Sandy) Defenbaugh of Manville, IL, Kathy (Ralph) Gehrig of Wheaton, IL & Brian (Kathy) Defenbaugh of Manville, IL as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
Ray is preceded in death by his parents; brothers, Dale Defenbaugh and Les Defenbaugh; grandson, Carl J. Green.
Funeral Services will be at 2:00 p.m., Sunday, February 2, 2020 at the West Central High School Gym (1514 US 34, Biggsville, IL 61418). Interment will be in Beulah Land Cemetery, Biggsville, IL. Visitation will be 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., Saturday, February 1, 2020 at McGuire & Davies Funeral Home and Crematory (1007 North G St, Monmouth, IL 61462). In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to Dr. Kasi Pancreatic Cancer Research.
** If you are planning on attending the burial at the cemetery, the family requests you bring boots to change into, the ground at the cemetery is very soft and muddy.***
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