Ray W. Champine helped to rescue Golsby Gatewood from burning, Martin, Tennessee, December 7, 1999. Gatewood, 90, was in his one-story, wood-frame house after a fire broke out there and filled the house with smoke. On his rounds in the neighborhood, Champine, 62, letter carrier, heard a smoke detector alarm, then saw smoke issuing from the eaves of Gatewood’s house. After telling a neighbor to report the fire, Champine entered the burning house through its front door and proceeded through a hall in search of Gatewood. Encumbered by heat and smoke, Champine was retreating when he heard Gatewood call out. Champine turned and went further through the hall. He entered the kitchen, then found Gatewood, who was conscious, on the floor of the adjoining bedroom. Champine grasped Gatewood and dragged him into the hall. Fire conditions were deteriorating rapidly, and Champine was no longer able to identify the path to the front door. He felt along the wall of the hallway and came across a window, which he broke with his hand. A firefighter who had arrived heard the breaking glass and responded to that side of the house. He kicked in the back door, which was adjacent to the window, and dragged Gatewood outside to safety, Champine following. Gatewood and Champine were taken to the hospital, where they were admitted, Champine to the intensive care unit, for treatment of smoke inhalation and minor burns. They recovered.
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Army veteran and U.S. Postal Service carrier Ray Walter Champine, 78, of Puryear, Tenn., died on July 10, 2015, at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital in Jackson, Tenn.
Champine was born March 10, 1937, in Ceylon, Minn., to George Lloyd and Grace Myers Champine. On Oct. 2, 1960, he married Sara Hudgins Champine.
Champine served one year in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division and retired after 21 years as a major. He worked at Holley carburetor plant until it closed, then became a postal carrier. He retired soon after saving an elderly man from in a house fire in December 1999. He was an avid gardener who enjoyed bowling.
Champine was buried at Alman Cemetery in Paris, Tenn.
(Edited from an obituary published in The Paris Post-Intelligencer on July 15, 2015.)