Thursday, February 15, 2007

Raymond M. Werner dies of injuries from I.E.D.

NAMPA — Kathy Elledge of Nampa will miss “everything” about her oldest and first-born of two sons. Pvt. 1st Class Raymond M. Werner who died Thursday in Iraq.

“He was a wonderful young man, and he loved the Lord; he wanted to be a youth pastor,” said the grieving mother of 22-year-old Werner, who spoke with the Idaho-Press Tribune on Saturday at her request.

Sometimes struggling for words, Elledge portrayed her fallen son as a dedicated church-goer, a football, golfing and fishing enthusiast, and a soldier who volunteered to serve his country as a U.S. Army reservist.

Werner’s 17-year-old brother, Roger Spencer, quietly shared his thoughts about the big brother he said “was like my best friend” and was at times a father figure.

“He was just a really good person. He always had a good heart and he took care of me a lot growing up,” Spencer said.

The two liked to watch movies together and fish, before Werner enlisted in the reserves, Spencer recalled sadly.

Elledge also said that Werner “fell in love with” his stepfather, Eric Elledge, who became part of the family unit six years ago.

Chris Standridge, former youth pastor of Eagle Heights Baptist Church, had warm memories of the teenager-turned-young-man-turned-soldier he spiritually counseled for five or six years.

“I guess I made an impact on him,” Standridge said, “but as much as anybody says I impacted him, he impacted me just as much, because he brought me a lot of joy in my ministry, to see him where he came from and to see the young man he developed into was really rewarding for me.”

Standridge said Werner turned his life around “drastically” and “instantaneously” when he was reborn as a Christian, and had aspirations of working in youth ministry in some way upon his return from Iraq.

The two talked by e-mail for the last time the day after Christmas.

Werner had a “contagious” personality, was a mentor to other youths, was mature and conversant as a young teen, and had the ability to “set the tone and atmosphere” of a room, Strandridge recalled.

“When he walked into a building, if he was in a good mood, then the tone in the room was everybody was in a good mood,” he said, adding that Werner rarely had a bad day after “he accepted Christ into his life.”

“I was very proud to call him one of my students, a friend and a brother in Christ,” Standridge said. “He was quite a young man, and I’m sad to have lost him. It was very difficult for me to hear that when I found out a couple days ago.”

Werner, who sported tattoos of Jesus and other Christian symbols, was married to “his best friend,” Lacey Groves Werner of Boise, formerly of McCall.

They married two weeks before Werner left for Army reserve training in Wyoming on his way to Iraq as an active-duty member of the Boise-based 321st. Engineering Battalion.

He was born in Long Beach, Calif., and moved with his family to Canyon County in the early 1990s. He attended East Canyon Elementary School, Vallivue Middle School, Vallivue High School, and graduated in 2004 from Cole Valley Christian School in Meridian.

A longtime member of Eagle Heights Baptist Church, Werner had begun attending services at Calvary Chapel in Boise before he joined the military. His funeral services will be decided by his widow; however, Elledge said plans were to bury him at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery in Boise.

From the Tribune