Faith helped gas station owner through a year of tragedy
Reggie Raynor was eight when he started pumping gas at his family’s service station in Southampton.
At the time he was barely able to see through the car windows.
“You could not do that today,” the 69-year-old laughed. “There are laws now that you have to be 16.”
Back then, Lucetta and Reginald Raynor put all five of their children to work.
His father had had a difficult time opening the gas station. His application was initially denied because a White man was interested in having one in the same neighbourhood.
“Back then, it was not too encouraging for Blacks to have a business,” Mr Raynor said.
“They turned my father down saying they could not have two gas stations so close together.”
His parents hired Edward Richards, a lawyer who was knighted in 1970 and became Bermuda’s first Black Government Leader the following year.
“It was a mammoth effort in 1957,” Mr Raynor said. “He was fresh from Guyana. Everyone wanted him as their lawyer.”
Sir Edward won the case and Raynor’s Service Station opened on Middle Road on November 10, 1958.
“I can remember when they were building the forecourt,” Mr Raynor said. “I was four. To entertain me my mother and I went into this little shed on the property and she was cutting fish out of slate for me.”
The gas station became a focal point in Mr Raynor’s youth.
“Some Christmas days when I did not have anything to do, I would tell my daddy, ‘Look, I am going to go out and open up,’” he said. “He would feel happy when he saw how much sales I got. A lot of time the other stations were not open. I felt good about it because I was doing something for the family business.”
Mr Raynor tried other things over the years. He was a fireman and also drove a taxi but the gas station always drew him back.
“It has been good working for my family,” he said.
In his youth, he represented Bermuda in boxing.
“I got to train with Muhammad Ali,” he said. “The whole Bermuda team trained with him. It was very exhilarating. That was a time when he was getting ready to fight Leon Spinks. Muhammad Ali lost, but came back and won in the rematch. That was in Miami where we trained with him.”
His father died in 1996, after arranging the business so that Mr Raynor, his four brothers and a cousin all owned shares. Mr Raynor eventually bought them all out and, on August 1, 2000 took over as the sole owner.
“I have been running it for 21 years,” he said.
He met his late wife Pamela at the gas station.
“I was working,” he said. “She came in and said ‘How are you doing?’ And I said, ‘I am doing great now that I have seen you.’ She kept coming back to the station to see me.”
They were married in 2005.
“2021 was not a good year for me,” Mr Raynor said. “My wife died on September 25, from Covid-19. I was vaccinated, but she did not want to be vaccinated. When she went into the hospital I was keeping close communication with the hospital and was able to talk to her on the phone.
“I was telling her, ‘Keep your focus on the Lord.’ There were a lot of people praying for her.”
It was the second tragedy in a matter of months. Mr Raynor’s daughter Regina, who lived in the US, died suddenly in May.
His religious faith helped him through.
“It kept me from being totally taken off the track,” he said. “But it hurt me and I have had my moments, and will probably have more.”
He was “saved” on December 18, 1978.
“It was a Monday,” he said. “I was 23. My mother and father spent years at Vernon Temple AME Church. One night I dropped my mother to choir rehearsal. I was not really a churchgoer although I went when I was younger. I had slacked off a little bit. The pastor, Rev Louis Davis, was standing waiting for my mother. When he saw me he said, ‘I have to talk to you.’”
They talked and prayed together for several hours. Later, sitting in complete darkness in the church sanctuary with the pastor, Mr Raynor felt the spirit move him.
“I felt like 500lbs had lifted from my shoulders,” he said.
He walked home and told his mother the good news.
“I was bubbling,” said Mr Raynor, who now attends Restoration Fellowship. “She was happy. That was what she had been praying for. My only regret is that I did not accept the Lord earlier.”
People often ask him about retirement but he is not sure whether anyone in the family will take over from him.
“I do plan to retire, but it is so important that I follow the leading of the Lord,” he said. “I have a son, Matthew, in a wheelchair. He is not in a working mode right now. I have a daughter, Halina, in North Carolina. I will have to decide.”
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