Friday, March 24, 2006

Today I Honor My Friend

Why do we halt our lives mid-stride to attend funerals?
The friend we loved isn’t alive to even know we’re there to support his transition. Is it for the living then, a statement that we will stand with them through this and the lonely difficult time to come? Or is it for ourselves? A touchstone for the temporal nature of existence. Or, maybe it is all of these.

I attended the memorial service for a friend of 30 years yesterday. Walter Gray, Jr.. He was 82 and had been ill for a while. It wasn’t a surprise, but a sad loss none-the-less. He and his companion had been together for much longer than I’d known them. (maybe close to 50 years). If I would ever apply the term soul mates to any two people, it would be them. Walter’s accomplishments are almost too lengthy and outstanding to list in a blog post. (But I won't let that stop me)

Walter Lee Gray, Jr, was born on October 13, 1924, to Walter Lee Gray, Sr. and Sara Elizabeth (Moore) Gray in Fairfax, Oklahoma. The Gray family moved to Oklahoma City in 1933, where Walter later graduated from Classen High School, winning the Classen Award and the History Award. Gray earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at the University of Texas, Austin, a Master of Arts in Political Science and a Juris Doctor from the University of Oklahoma. He was a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity, and he served as President of the Inter-fraternity Council at OU, the Council that won the award as the best in the nation. Gray was the Director of the Community Workshop at the Metropolitan Library System of Oklahoma County from 1951 until his retirement on December 31, 1989. During this time, Gray produced many television series and was a recognized pioneer in the use of television for education. He began working cooperatively wilh Oklahoma City television stations in 1951. In four decades, he produced 'Our Better Shelves', 'Talk About Books', 'Creative Crafts', 'Medicine and You', 'Money and You', 'Quality of Living', and 'We the People'. 'Creative Crafts' was on the air from 1951 until 1991, possibly the longest running continuous television series in the nation. Many of these series were run in other states including Texas, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. Videotapes of 'Creative Crafts' have been shown in colleges and art schools around the country, and they continue to be distributed for the growing historical importance of the artists featured. In 1972, the show he produced on Robert Lougheed was honored with a medal from the National Academy of Western Art at the Cowboy Hall of Fame. As President of the Oklahoma Adult Education Association, Gray was instrumental in the establishment of the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority. In 1959, the Community Workshop was given the John Cotton Dana Award publicity award for the best public relations program for a library from the American Library Association. Gray was selected the Outstanding Citizen in Education in 1962 by the Oklahoma City Junior Chamber of Commerce. In 1968, Gray received a special award from the Oklahoma City Medical Society for producing the 'Medicine and You' series. In the midst of all these activities, his central concern was the establishment and theoretical formulation of a major program of study and discussion. In the late fifties, he combined several programs from 'Great Books', and 'World Politics' to 'Looking at Modern Art' and 'Exploring the Universe'. This variety resulted in Oklahoma City housing the largest participation in discussion groups in the nation in the late fifties. In 1960, he was the key founder of 'The American Institute of Discussion', which was a source of new discussion courses. A. I. D. published Walter's 'Manual for Discussion Moderators', which was typically developed from his skills at bringing together multiple viewpoints from the volunteer moderators who worked in the program. The principles in this book emphasized training and freeing discussants to analyze the thoughts of others and express their facts and opinions. A small discussion program of great importance was carried out in the fifties and sixties as volunteer moderators drove to the El Reno Federal Reformatory to conduct discussion ranging from the plays of Shakespeare to Hispanic culture and literature. In 1977, Gray and Daniel Blanchard established The Grapevine Gallery in Oklahoma City. This enterprise took their educational activities into an unusually fruitful relationship assisting in the growth of the finest artists and the most serious collectors. The Grapevine Gallery has provided some of the most renowned artists throughout the hemisphere an avenue in which to display their work. Additionally, the gallery has enabled many collectors to obtain the highest quality work by American artists for private collections.

Walter Gray Jr. is survived by Daniel Blanchard of the home, sister Jeanne Gray Zerboni of OKC, nieces Cheri Zerboni Speer, husband Terry, son Blair, Carol Zerboni and Elizabeth Zerboni Wilson, husband Paul, son Benjamin, and grand-nephew Jon Clayton Speer, wife Julie and children Carson and Corynn. Memorial contributions may be made to The American Institute of Discussion, P.O. Box 54739, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73154. Honorary pallbearers will be the beloved artists and collectors of The Grapevine Gallery.

Today, I honor my friend.


Blogger Heather Dawn Harper said...

What a lovely obituary, a beautiful ending to a well-lived life.

I'm sorry you lost your friend.

I believe we never relly LOSE the ones we love. They become a part of who we are, living in our hearts and minds, paying it forward.

What a gift.

10:41 AM CST  
Blogger Heather Dawn Harper said...

really, not relly

(Rolling my eyes as I curse my nerve damaged hands for clicking Login and Publish instead of Preview.)

10:43 AM CST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(((Betty))) on the loss of your friend. It sounds as though he was a remarkable man.

12:29 PM CST  
Blogger Dana Pollard said...

I'm so sorry, Betty. I'm thinking of you and praying.

8:54 AM CST  

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