Retired police chief brings comfort to families in new role as Wyoming County Chaplain

WYOMING COUNTY, WV (WOAY) –  When Ray Toler retired from the Mullens Police Department last year, he wasn’t quite able to sit still.

He immediately started trying to find a way to still be a public servant, and he found it again with the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Department.

As Chaplain for the department, he serves in a unique role, leading the way and guiding funeral processions. While the processions might be smaller these days as funeral homes are only allowing immediate family, Toler knows his steady and uplifting presence is needed now more than ever. 

“I get to thinking about this county and how hard it is to do this, and then you think about New York, places like that that aren’t even having funerals, so our limited funerals are better than none at all,” he said. 

Toler continues to help out with every funeral in the county, sometimes doing about two a day. Funeral directors, like Jerry Stafford with the Stafford Family Funeral Home, are grateful for his leadership and guidance getting families to that final resting place safely. 

“I’ve gotten a really good response on Ray being up there leading the processions. I mean, it’s just – they really appreciate it,” Stafford said. 

This was an idea made possible by the late Wyoming County Sheriff C.S. Sherill Parker and continued on by Sheriff Randy Brooks who says Toler’s service means so much to not only the community but to the sheriff’s department especially. 

“It has been really invaluable to us,” Brooks said. “Because like I say, he takes a lot of weight off of the sheriff’s department escorting funerals. Not that we mind doing it, but it also frees up our department to do other things.” 

Toler is not a paid employee of the county but does this simply to serve.  He hopes to even expand it once this is all over to do more community outreach.

For now, he will continue guiding families in his new position and helping them navigate through especially hard times. 

“I can’t say I enjoy doing funerals, but if it can bring some comfort to someone to let them know, just something, a little card that says the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Department is thinking about you, praying for you. We’ll help get you through this time. We’ll try our best to pay respects to your family and your loved ones.” 

So far, Toler has participated in about 40 funerals since January as Stafford says there are more funerals this year already than in years past even with the new restrictions.

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Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.