A driving force in Statesboro realty for more than 40 years was announced Monday the 2012 Citizen of the Year by the Rotary Club of Statesboro and the Rotary Club of Downtown Statesboro.
Ray Hendley, the owner of Hendley properties who has worked locally developing duplexes and condominiums since 1968, was presented the honor during a luncheon hosted by the two clubs at Forest Heights Country Club.
Hendley’s face flashed a coy smile when his friend Bill Stubbs let the proverbial cat out of the bag a bit early, accidentally name-dropping in a story told during the award presentation.
The premature announcement did not take away from the surprise, and certainly not the gratitude, felt by the long-time Rotary Club member, according to the group’s 42nd Citizen of the Year.
“This is indeed the biggest surprise of my life,” Hendley said, after taking the podium to a standing ovation. “I am honored. Thank you.”
Hendley used the large stage to draw the event’s biggest laugh.
“I consider myself a self-appointed optimist,” he said. “But if I am the citizen of the year, we are all in worse shape than I thought.”
Stubbs and others though, would argue against that notion.
In his introduction for Hendley, Stubbs described a man that he feels is more than deserving of the high honor.
He used the words contented and humility to describe his old friend and issued the claim: “I do not know of anyone as generous as (Hendley).”
Stubbs continued by listing some of his favorite Hendley attributes, traits he first recognized when getting to know the man some 20 years ago.
“I noticed that he was faithful to the church, that he was a family man, and that he was always faithful to an exercise program,” Stubbs said. “I also noticed that he was, and still is, a very snappy dresser, and that he loves to drive a nice car” — he punctuated the latter by sharing a story in which Hendley refused to pick him up at home because the Stubbs household was located on a dirt road, which would stain nice wheels and paint, he said.
Stubbs also highlighted Hendley’s propensity for good business, claiming that as a youngster the now-developer was a whiz at the Monopoly board game.
“He was the guy that always bought Park Place or Broadway,” Stubbs said. “And you or I are the ones who always landed on it.”
Rotary members agree that Hendley is a perfect fit for an award meant to recognize a person of “high moral character,” who is “active in civic affairs,” and “contributes to the betterment of all races and economic levels, and to the advancement of all citizens.”
They say he reflects the Rotary ideal of “service above self.”
“He is a great servant. If he sees someone with a need, he finds a way to help. He puts the needs of others above his own and he embodies this award,” said Rotary Club member Jody Stubbs. “Ray is a giving, generous person and a very thoughtful person. He is very genuine; what you see is what you get.”
Hendley, who grew up in Millen and later lived in Atlanta before moving to Statesboro to pursue a Biology degree at Georgia Southern University, currently rents more than 600 "beds" — a term used to denote the number of occupants that can be housed — in developments in and around Statesboro. Notable neighborhoods include Greenbriar, Hawthorne, and Planters Row.
He has served on various boards and is a Past Chairman of Deacons at First Baptist Church.
Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454.