Donald R. Ravan 1949 - 2009
A constant smile, a hard worker, a great sense of humor, level headed, never give up determination, a devoted Christian. That is how I would start to describe my late friend, Donald Ray Ravan.
I can not imagine losing my wife; Donald lost his wife, Yvonne, in 2003 to Inflammatory Breast Cancer. He faced this challenge with the faith of Job. He continued to smile. As his health problems started just a few weeks after Yvonne passed, he kept his smile and continued to make all of those around him smile as well.
Donald Ravan loved his family, his church, his job, and his hobbies.
While working as a store manager for Community Cash, and later as a truck driver for Whitaker Chemicals, he served as a reserve police officer for both Spartanburg County and the City of Inman.
“Donald was a great police officer and a very good friend as well. He would ride patrols, help with crowd control at sporting events, help with traffic during parades, just whatever I asked him to do, he would treat any task like it was the most important job to be performed,” said Inman Police Chief Glenn Henderson. “He was a peace officer; he would talk to the kids at the stadium before the games and make friends with many of them. If he had to call some of them down, they respected him and they would listen to him.”
Police work was one of his hobbies; his other was serving as a pit crewman for many NASCAR teams.
“Don was the ultimate NASCAR weekend warrior,” said former team manager Greg Moore. “He would work his regular job, and get out to the track on the weekend, willing to do anything to help the team. He would stop by our shop and have us all laughing before he left. When he was working with some of the Busch teams, he would check with us to see if we needed a hand for the cup race, and he helped us several times.”
Don Ravan helped several teams and drivers over the years. Some of those names include James Hylton, Larry Pearson, Ernie Irvan, Jimmy Means, Dave Marcis, Buckshot Jones, David Green, D.K. Ulrich, Bud Moore, Lake Speed, Kirk Shelmerdine, Johnny Rumley, Harry Rainer and Tony Stewart. Don Ravan was a tire changer for Stewart when he made his first NASCAR start at Bristol in the then Busch Series.
I talked to him after that race and Don said of Stewart, “This boy is going to be one to keep your eye on. He was very respectful of all of us on the team and he thanked each of us after the race personally. And for him to come to Bristol and run top ten in his first start, he is going do something.” Two championships and numerous wins later, yes Don Ravan saw the talent in Tony Stewart before most in NASCAR did.
Don’s cousin Gary Ravan of Campobello, who currently works with Jimmy Means Racing, recalled a trip to Talladega with Don. “The Busch race used to be in July. We had a thermometer to check the temperature on pit road, and when we stopped checking, it read 131 in the sun on the asphalt. We were pitting Rumley, and he had dodged all the wrecks except the last one. He brought it down pit road, Don told me to try to flatten the hood to help Johnny see while he was helping cut a fender off the tires. We were so give out after that race, we stopped every 20 miles on the way back home to try to get rid of the leg cramps and to switch drivers,” said Gary Ravan.
As Gary thought of his friend and cousin Saturday he was reminded of that hot July day. The Means team was assigned pit stall 35, the same stall that Don and Gary worked in on the hot July 1995 day.
One of Don Ravan’s last trips to pit road was in 2003. James Hylton and Kirk Shelmerdine asked him if he wanted to go to the ARCA race at Charlotte with them, not to work but just to watch. As the race unfolded, Don kept his eyes on the sky.
Rain had pushed the start of the race to 10:00pm. Kyle Busch had led a bunch of the early laps while Clint Bowyer worked his way toward the front. Several teams hit pit road, while Hylton left his driver Shelmerdine on track. Don convinced Hylton not to pit because the sky looked ready to open up with rain at any minute.
Shelmerdine led about 20 laps before the rains came. The race was past the half way point and the #48 of James Hylton and Kirk Shelmerdine pulled to the Winner’s Circle. This wasn’t Don’s first trip to victory lane with Hylton. Don was also with Hylton when he won the 1972 Talladega 500.
As those in attendance filed out of the service, at Holston Creek Baptist, honoring Don’s life Sunday, the cars started lining up as if they were getting ready for a restart of a race.
Donald Ravan had already crossed the finish line. He showed everyone around him how to approach each day with a smile and he would remind us that life is like a race. If the track ahead of you looks bumpy or you feel like you may be about to spin out, take a little time to bow your head, and talk to your Crew Chief above, the same one that helped him through the sharp curves and over the bumps on the raceway of his life.