Jack Neal Gray was born Sept. 21, 1921, in Taylor, Texas. He joined his heavenly Father on Nov. 15, 2012, at the age of 91.
Jack was preceded in death by his wife, Laura Bearfield Gray and by his parents, John Thomas and Amber Pearl Lord Gray. He was also preceded in death by siblings J.T. Gray and wife Rosa Neal, Linnie Gray Solomon and husband William, Myrtle Gray Grubbs and husband Luna, Irene Gray Hodges, Dorothy Gray Reno Russell and husband Bill and Clarence, who died as a child.
Survivors include five children, Johnnie Gray and wife Joyce of Sherwood, Texas, Larry Gray and wife Debbie of Yoakum, Texas, Gary Gray and wife Elaine, Steve Gray and his wife Terry and Laura Gray Lowery and husband Lee Dale of Big Spring, Texas. He is also survived by 11 grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.
Jack was born with smallpox and had one eye that never developed sight. The doctor that delivered him said it was a miracle that he lived. When he was two years old, Jack survived polio. Jack and his family moved from Taylor to San Angelo when he was five years old. He grew up in San Angelo, attending Fort Concho elementary, San Angelo Junior High, high school and college.
He had a great admiration and respect of his band director, Homer Anderson, which made an impact on the rest of his life. Jack excelled musically with many state and national honors. He enjoyed playing the saxophone in the high school band, Don’s Campus Swingsters, the Ram Band and Buster Reed’s Orchestra. His college professors declared Jack to be one of the best musicians in West Texas according to a 1941 issue of the San Angelo Standard Times. He was also the highest ranked graduate of San Angelo College in 1943.
Jack met Laura Bearfield while they were both working at JC Penny in downtown San Angelo. They were married in 1943. Jack and Laura had five children. Jack was a band director, teacher, counselor and superintendent of schools in several Texas towns for 39 years.
Jack spent most of his summers attending universities to further his education. He was always reading, listening and learning. He graduated from San Angelo College in 1943 with an applied arts diploma, from Texas A&I in 1950 with a BS in secondary education, from Texas Tech University in 1960 with a MA in music, counseling and administration and from the University of Wyoming in 1963 with a PhD in psychology.
Jack was chosen in 1966 as the American Educator of the Year by the Freedom Foundation.
In 1983, Jack and Laura moved to Big Spring to enjoy their retirement. Jack’s wife, Laura, died in 2001 after almost 59 years of marriage.
Jack was a Boy Scout leader, Sunday school teacher and a deacon in the Baptist church. He also enjoyed playing in the Big Spring Community Band, attending the various activities of his children and grandchildren and working with his hands.
He set a wonderful example through his courage, convictions, love of people, music and education and by living his Christian beliefs. Jack was a loving Christian husband, father and educator with music in his soul. He will be greatly missed.
Jack’s family appreciates all the loving care that Jack received from Home Hospice in Big Spring, from the Sterling County Nursing Home and from caregivers Annie Rushing and Marie Pipes.
A graveside service will be held at Fairmount Cemetery in San Angelo on Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, at 10:30 a.m. Arrangements are by Johnson’s Funeral Home.
In lieu of flowers, make contributions to your favorite charity.
Family and friends may sign an online guestbook at johnsons-funeralhome.com