Ray DePwe, a prominent land developer whose work can be seen across the area, died Wednesday after battling Parkinson’s disease.
A native of Orange and resident of Port Arthur, DePwe, 81, was an engineer with the Texas Highway Department for 19 years before he went into private practice and formed SouTex Surveyors Inc. As a licensed civil engineer and licensed surveyor DePwe was responsible for two recent subdivisions in the city of Groves and was an active member and volunteer for numerous organizations.
Paula Leger of SouTex Surveyors said DePwe owned the company for approximately 36 years. She remembers him as a hard-working man who continued to work up until his death and even made calls from the nursing home where he was receiving therapy.
DePwe, she added, was the inspiration for the eye catching company logo which was created decades ago. The logo, which has been modernized somewhat, features a man looking through surveyor’s equipment.
“It was a gift from his college roommate,” Leger said, “because that’s all he could afford as a graduation gift.”
Leger spoke often with DePwe gleaning stories of his early days which included the artist gift made when DePwe and his roommate were at a time in their life when they were just starting out and poor.
DePwe spoke with The Port Arthur News earlier this week in regard to a dedication for his newest subdivision dubbed the K.L. Butler Addition. A dedication is scheduled for Tuesday at the site off Joplin Avenue.
The subdivision is named in honor of Butler, an employee with the City of Groves. DePwe also honored the family of fallen Beaumont Police Officer Bryan Hebert with a street named after him. Hebert’s parents are Cyndi and Glenn Hebert; Cyndi works for the City of Groves.
Groves City Manager D. Sosa praised DePwe for the work he did to help the city.
“What Raymond did for the city of Groves in the last three years is phenomenal,” Sosa said. “He helped improve the appearance of the city’s commercial district, primarily by taking the old Ice House and giving it new life as Electrical Solutions.”
Sosa credits DePwe for the development of two subdivisions — the Erica Lynn Addition, and the Hebert Addition which includes the addition of 25 to 30 homes and 20 plus lots ready to be built upon all while suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
“We owe a bit debt of gratitude for everything he did and the chances he took,” he said. “We had a good relationship. We worked with him in a way you really don’t work with a developer.”
DePwe, he said, would develop small lots and work with landowners.
“He was as persistent as anybody I ever met and his last subdivision is set to be approved on Monday,” he said. “He worked on subdivisions that we thought the property would never be productive because all of the problems with different owners and such. He found a way to get around this. He never gave up.”
Floyd Marceaux, founder of Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas and president of Retail Merchants Association, first met DePwe as a teenager when he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves.
“We all respected him,” Marceaux said of DePwe who served as first lieutenant assigned to the 1st Marine Division at camp Pendleton. DePwe was later a member of the Marine Corps Reserves and served as company commander of the Port Arthur unit on Pleasure Island where he retired as lieutenant colonel. “He seemed to be a gruff person, he was a huge man, but he had a soft heart for children, especially handicapped children. As a Rotarian he wanted to continue his work helping children with projects in the community.”
DePwe is survived by his wife, Mayda Depwe of Port Arthur; sister, Emma Sue Johnson of Dallas; brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Mack and Jean Cruse of Valencia, Calif., and numerous nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be at 2 p.m., Saturday at Levingston Funeral Home in Groves with the Rev. Kyle Morton pastor of First Baptist Church of Port Arthur officiating. Burial will follow in Greenlawn Memorial Park.
A visitation will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at the funeral home.