Donald “Don” Earl Gray was born on August 11, 1944, in Paris, Texas to Bessie Alma Mason and Willie Gray. Donald was the second of four children.
Don was a beloved varsity high school athlete and Captain of the Gibbons High School Varsity Football Team. He was well known around Paris, Texas as “Waxey” nicknamed for his shiny skin. Waxey worked in the meatpacking plant and picked cotton to help support his family. Soon after graduation, instead of accepting one of the many football scholarships he had received from universities such as Oklahoma State, he opted to enlist in the U.S. Navy. In 1964, he married his high school sweetheart, Bobbie Jean Washington.
After completing boot camp in San Diego, he valiantly served along with his brother Troy Gray on the USS McCormick, a Naval Destroyer. Their tour included the Vietnam War. In 1967, Don was honorably discharged for health reasons. Soon thereafter, he began working for the Department of Defense. Over his thirty-plus year career as a civil servant, he worked in several positions, rising to the ranks of a Supervisor Analyst at North Island Naval Air Station. He retired in 1999.
In 1986, Don joined his beloved Christian Fellowship Congregational Church where he dedicated several decades of faithful service. At Christian Fellowship, he served many roles, including serving on the Diaconate and Evangelism Board, Church Council, Trustee Board, Choir and Men’s Ministry, and chef extraordinaire. He loved to barbeque at church functions. Don was also an active member of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Choir of San Diego, Fidelity Lodge #10, Prince Hall Freemasonry, and other local groups.
Don was an outgoing, energetic, loving, and kind family man. He was full of life and had a positive aura. His loving personality, infectious laugh, and bright, beautiful smile made everyone around him feel better. Even the neighborhood kids called him “grandad.”
Famously known for his thick mustache, Don was a compassionate and caring person who opened his heart and doors to everyone. He loved cooking and truly believed his BBQ ribs and fried catfish were the best.
Don enjoyed a variety of activities including daily walks around Chollas Lake with his buddies, fishing, and watching Jerry Springer and old western cowboy movies. He also loved playing the lottery and
visited 7/11 daily.
On June 8, 2019, Don and Bobbie celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary.
The Lord called Don home on Tuesday, June 18th after a four-year battle with ALS and dementia. He passed away holding the hand of his devoted wife.
Don leaves to celebrate his life: wife, Bobbie Gray; daughters, Pamela Gray Payton and Linda Diane Behn; sons, Craig D. Gray and Derryck E. Gray; son-in-law, Jerome C. Payton; daughter-in-law, Caroline Sanchez; brother, Troy Gray; sister-in-law, Annie Faye Gray; grandchildren, Jason Behn, Terence Hasten, Brittany A. Harvey, Anthony G. Gray, Brandyn A. Harvey, Derryck E, Gray Jr, Siqualah M. Behn, Tania M. Gray, Kitana E. Gray, and Briajah C. Payton; great-grandchildren, Keaton, Lauren, Ja'carius, Anthony, Jr., Jordan, Amdyn, Xavier, and Amir. He also leaves his beloved adopted niece Charis Chambers and her mother, Carrie Garnett.
Don’s spirit was boundless. Everyone who knew him loved and respected him. Although Don’s passing hurts, we can hold on to our memories of him; knowing that he lived and loved life to the fullest.
Donald is survived by a host of relatives and family friends who will miss him dearly.