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Family, friends say last goodbye to Ratliff

After being away for three years, Virginia Byrne Ratliff finallyreturned home.

Family and community members gathered as the last line of an oldstory was told at Ratliff’s graveside services in Rosehill CemeteryThursday afternoon.

“There’s not going to be worries about her remains or where shemight be. It puts that to rest,” said Dr. Suzanne “Susie” Ratliff,Virginia Ratliff’s daughter. “(The funeral) is also a way foreverybody to come together to say goodbye.”

The story began Feb. 28, 2008, when the 83-year-old VirginiaRatliff sat behind the wheel of her 1999 Mercury Grand Marquis andallegedly headed toward the VA medical center in Jackson to visither beloved husband, Charles “Ploochie” Ratliff, but never madeit.

Local authorities tirelessly searched small country roads andbusy highways for a loved member of the Brookhaven community, butshe was nowhere to be found.

While Virginia Ratliff was gone, she was not forgotten. Acommunity was troubled by the disappearance of one of its mostrespected members. The tale would sadden even more when PloochieRatliff passed away last summer without learning the whereabouts ofhis wife.

The plot would begin to wind down on Feb. 25, just three daysprior to the same date Virginia Ratliff went missing several yearsearlier. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department discovered herremains more than 300 feet west of the intersection of Highway 28and Highway 33 after a man discovered the wooded scene whilecutting a path to inspect his newly purchased property a dayearlier.

“It’s been a long three years,” said Dr. Susie Ratliff. “Forabout a week after I found out, it was like going through it all(again). I’m really at peace with it all now.”

Virginia Ratliff was laid to rest next to her husband on theirday. Family members and friends sported green for the occasion andemerald colored balloons were released in the air as St. Patrick’sDay marked the anniversary of when the couple made their vows toeach other.

“The people that dressed alike all this time are being reunitedon their 65th wedding anniversary,” said Dr. Susie Ratliff.

With Virginia Ratliff’s discovery and funeral also came theburial of any horrifying stories that may have been associated withher disappearance.

“The nice thing about this is I know that there was no evilinvolved in her demise,” said Dr. Susie Ratliff. “That’s verycomforting.”

The old story remained new for Dr. Susie Ratliff as she had beencleaning out her parents’ home in the Halbert Heights area for thepast six months. While gathering belongings and reminiscing oftimes past, she said it was like losing her mother twice.

“All those memories are fresh, so you sort of have to mourn heragain,” said Dr. Susie Ratliff.

Virginia Ratliff’s brother, Caby Byrne, expressed his gratitudetoward the community and said the funeral symbolized a very longjourney made with family and friends.

“Brookhaven, for us, kind of rose to the occasion of what smalltown America is all about: people helping people,” said Byrne.”It’s a place to find a home.”

Dr. Susie Ratliff said she was glad to bring her mother back toHomeseekers Paradise, where she is intended to be.

“She’s home,” she said. “In more ways than one – physically andspiritually.”