Ray Kinsland, “Helper of Young Men”, passes away

by Jun 14, 2019Front Page, NEWS ka-no-he-da

Ray Kinsland watches closely as the Braves scrimmage Gatlinburg-Pittman (Tenn.) at Ray Kinsland Stadium on the afternoon of Aug. 14, 2014. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photos)






Ray Kinsland, the man synonymous with helping members of the Cherokee community, especially the youth, passed away on Thursday, June 13.

Over the years, he was honored for his expansive service to the community including being named an honorary member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) and given the Cherokee name Di-sde-li-sgi-a-ni-wi-ni which translates as “Helper of Young Men”.

“It’s a very sad day for our Tribe,” Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed said in a statement.  “The passing of Mr. Ray Kinsland marks a day of heartfelt sorrow for me personally and for generations of Cherokees whose lives have been touched by Ray’s contributions to our community.  Please remember the Kinsland family in your thoughts and prayers.”

Kinsland is recognized at the start of the Cherokee Braves State Championship Ring Ceremony at Ray Kinsland Stadium on the evening of May 4, 2018.

Kinsland served in many capacities in the Cherokee community, most notably as the general manager of the Cherokee Boys Club, an organization he helped to found, for 53 years.  At his official retirement luncheon on March 11, 2011, he told the One Feather, “I just thank the Lord and the Cherokee people for giving the blessing and opportunity to live here and to work here.  It’s great to see how this Tribe has grown and has been able to take problems and turn them into opportunities.”

The Cherokee Boys Club released a statement on Thursday in which they said, “Mr. Kinsland was a pillar in this community and will always be remembered for his selfless service that he provided, not only as the general manager of the Cherokee Boys Club, but as a community member. Rest in peace Mr. Kinsland; gone, but never forgotten!”

Kinsland received many awards during his life.  He was named to North Carolina’s prestigious Order of the Long Leaf Pine and also received the Citizen of the Year Award from the Steve Youngdeer American Legion 143, the Frell Owl Award, and the NCHSAA (North Carolina High School Athletic Association) Unsung Hero Award.  In 2017, the Ray Kinsland Leadership Institute opened to serve as an umbrella organization for the Right Path Adult Leadership Program, the Cherokee Youth Council, and the Jones-Bowman Leadership Award Program.

Kinsland, center, was recognized prior to the varsity basketball games at the Charles George Memorial Arena on the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 for his 59 years of involvement with Cherokee Central Schools and specifically its athletic programs. He is shown with his daughter, Dr. Debora Foerst, left, Cherokee High School principal, and his wife, Jerri.

The staff of the Ray Kinsland Institute issued a statement expressing their sorrow.  “He is the epitome of a selfless leader who lived his life guided by the seven Cherokee core values.  It is the goal of our Institute to provide programs and services to the EBCI community that honors our namesake and perpetuates Mr. Kinsland’s pride and love for the Cherokee community.”

Kinsland was a stalwart supporter for over five decades of the Cherokee Central Schools and Cherokee athletics of all ages.  Known affectionately as “Mr. Brave”, he was the “Voice of the Braves” announcing games for many years and also many times driving the bus to away games.

“Our prayers go out to the family for the passing of a person that spent a lifetime educating all of us on the true meaning of service leadership,” Dr. Michael Murray, Cherokee Central Schools superintendent, said in a statement.  “His school family will never forget this courageous man that touched so many lives!  Glory gained one of our best today.”

Ever the humble man, Kinsland was quoted in a One Feather article published Aug. 20, 2008 entitled “The Voice of the Braves” as saying, “I’m very, very thankful for the opportunity,” he said of being able to announce the Braves and Lady Braves’ games.  “I appreciate you all putting up with me.”

Kinsland, left, shares a word with his wife, Jerri, just prior to him being honored by the Cherokee Braves Booster Club on the evening of Feb. 10, 2015 at the Charles George Memorial Arena.

News of Kinsland’s passing spread quickly through Cherokee on Thursday which was also the day of the regular Tribal Council session, and Council representatives took time for a moment of silence upon hearing the news.  The flags on EBCI tribal lands were ordered to be flown at half mast in his honor.

Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley praised Kinsland for his dedication to the Cherokee youth and the Tribe as a whole.  He said he was a good man who was always there for everyone at anytime.

Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke commented, “He was a great man and we know where he is today.  He’s in that heavenly home with a new body.”

Birdtown Rep. Boyd Owle said he worked with the Cherokee Boys Club for over 20 years.  “Ray was certainly one of my mentors there.  He was a good, Christian man…he was a good man, and I will certainly miss him.”