Raymond “Ray” McKinley Dupuy died more than a decade ago but his memory is alive and strong at the farm where he grew up, moved his bride, built a home and raised his two daughters. His memory permeates everything on the 78-acre farm nestled between Ky. 7 and Beechy Fork.
His wife, Sybil Dupuy Bench, still lives in the home she shared with her husband for more than 42 years. Her 18-year-old grandson, Michael Brock Leonhart, lives there, too. Leonhart’s mother, Vickie Rae, 56, lives next door in a home she built around the house her grandparents once owned.
On a recent steamy July evening, Ray Dupuy’s family, including Sybil, Vickie, daughter Christy Fuller, 50, and her 11-year-old daughter Harlee, and Vickie’s daughter Crystal Steele, 27, gathered to reminisce about Ray, pour through old family photographs and share stories about their lives on the farm that has been in their family for six generations.
The Dupuys of Tygarts Valley
There are several Dupuy farms that line the bottom of the Tygarts Valley along Ky. 7. Each can trace its history back to a common ancestor, Moses Fugua Dupuy, who was born in Greenup County in 1799. He was the son of Capt. William Dupuy, who was born in Virginia and moved to Kentucky sometime late in the 16th Century, settling on approximately 1,200 acres. Moses Dupuy, who died at age 89 in 1889, is buried in nearby Liberty Cemetery. His children included sons Roswell “Ross” and Ernie Dupuy, who divided their fathers farm after his death.
Raymond McKinley Dupuy’s family traces his line back through Ross and Virginia Dupuy, his grandparents. When the couple died within days of one another, their sons, Clifford Hardman Dupuy, and his brother, Raymond Dupuy along with their three sisters further divided the farm and raised their families there.
‘The only place he ever wanted to be’
Raymond McKinley Dupuy was born in Portsmouth where his father, Clifford Dupuy and mother, Sarah Anne “Sallie” Roberts were working at the time. When he was four, during the 1937 flood, his father contracted tuberculosis and grew gravely ill. The family returned to the farm where Sallie and Clifford would spend the rest of their lives. They died within a year of each other in the mid 70s.
Ray first began working along side his father on the farm at age 7. It was work he relished, recalled his wife.
“He loved it (the farm). It’s the only place he ever wanted to be,” said Sybil.
The couple were married in 1955, and settled on the farm two years later.
“I swore I would never marry a farmer,” recalls Sybil Dupuy Bench, with a laugh. “I did not want to hoe corn,” she says, explaining she was a farmer’s daughter and had been “hoeing corn all my life.” “But I have been happy here,” she said, “It was a great place to raise a family.”
Raymond, a renowned mechanic, who worked for Norfolk and Southern Railroad for three decades while Sybil spent 26 years as a secretary for the Greenup County School Board. They farmed too, raising their daughters much like they were raised —working hard from a young age along side the adults.
“Papaw (Clifford) Dupuy, says Vickie “was my playmate. There was nobody else, so when I got up in the morning, (the barn) that’s where I went. Crushing corn, fixing fence, feeding the cows, putting up hay. That was my playtime,” she said.
Christy has similar memories that also include cully packing fields, canning vegetables and smoking meat.
The family raised cattle, chickens, pigs, always had horses, grew corn, tobacco, hay and tended a large garden.
“At times in our lives, we’ve had it all,” says Sybil.
They also grew long rows of potatoes, which Ray would turn using his beloved John Deere Tractor, then sit at the end, his wife and daughters recall laughing, pointing out the ones they missed, before moving on to turn over another row.
“He always had to drive the tractor,” laughed Fuller.
“The tractor that he washed and waxed,” added Vickie Rae.
The Clifford Dupuy Farm has always been full of laughter, most of it initiated by Ray’s practical jokes.
There was the time he rigged the manure spreader to throw the fertilizer all over the driver of the tractor pulling the machine. The time he winked at his oldest daughter, before cutting the corner to the barn so close and fast that it tossed the hay bale his youngest daughter and wife were perched on, off the trailer.
In those days, the Dupuy farm was the place to stop for automobile advice and help. Ray “built or worked on every car he ever had,” which included a collection of vintage cars. His beloved 1940 Ford Couple and a 1957 Chevrolet are still in the family, driven by Leonhart and Christy Fuller respectively.
He also mentored young mechanics and also tormented a few older ones, laughs his family.
Every year, said his wife, he would build a car and sell it. The money he got, took the family on their annual vacation. “For 14 years, it got us to Gatlinburg!” laughs Vickie Rae, “It did get us to the beach one year.”
In 1985, Ray suffered a massive and debilitating heart attack. His wife tried to soldier on with the family’s livestock feeding and caring for the 48 cattle they had at the time. “It just got more than I could handle,” she recalls, “So we had to sell them. That was sad. Ray cried.”
Her daughters the cattle cried too as the long trailers carrying them away pulled out onto Ky. 7 and made their way toward the AA Highway.
Seven years later, Ray had a stroke. For the next year eight years, his family cared for him at home on the farm, until he died in 2000 at the age of 65.
Full of memories
Today, the family rents out much of the farm for use as hayfields and Vickie Rae continues to grow a large garden.
“I grow it and everybody eats it,” she says.
Like her father, she has never wanted to leave the farm.
“I’ve been here all my life. When I was 18, I moved from that bedroom to that house,” she says, waving her arm to the back of the house then pointing next door. Her son, Brock, did exactly the same thing when he moved in with his grandmother in December following the death of her second husband William Bench.
“It’s so peaceful here,” explains Christy, who now lives in Flatwoods. “You don’t realize how nice it is until you leave it.”
“I think of Dad every day when I get up and look out of my window and look out across the fields,” said Vickie Rae. “I hope one of my children will take my part of it, live here and continue on.”
“I’ve lived here all my life” says Brock simply, his voice growing thick with emotion as he adds, “It’s just everything really.”
“I’m probably going to live on this farm too,” said his cousin Harlee Fuller. “There are too many memories to erase.”
“We’re just all going to stay here, and its going to keep going on down generations,” added Sybil Dupuy Bench.