John E. Gray, 78, died Feb. 26, 2022, at Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice Center at Via Christi-St. Francis in Wichita after a brief illness. He was born Dec. 3, 1943, in Eureka, to J. Evert and Velva (Todd) Gray.
John grew up in Newton, with his parents and older sisters, Sharon and Pat. He clearly recalled his childhood memories into late adulthood and enjoyed speaking about these good times. John laughed about how much attention and care his father gave to his bird dogs that he used for hunting, but how they were never allowed in the house, something his mother would have never allowed anyway. John also talked fondly of memories playing with his cousins, Gary, Mel and Ron, at least one or more of whom apparently talked John into riding a bull at one point.
John lived with his father and mother until his father passed when John was a young adult. He continued to live with his mother who often assigned him tasks, such as doing the dishes, getting the mail and walking around the block with her. John could be heard saying, “I am going, I am going” when his mother became impatient with him not performing duties on her timeline. Despite this, often at times hilarious banter, John never said a harsh word.
After John’s mother’s passing, John moved in and lived with his sister, Sharon, and brother-in-law, Tom for many years. There, he was surrounded in the den with every VHS tape and DVD that could be acquired, either by purchasing it or bootleg copying it if necessary. John loved movies and he could tell you if any of them were out of place or missing, although he was happy to loan them to anyone. It is here that his sisters introduced him to the lottery; something he joked would have horrified their mother. John loved receiving lottery tickets from his sister, Pat, in Pennsylvania, and had his sister, Sharon, purchasing them for him every week. It was also from this home, he was drug to every great-niece and nephew’s program possible, something he always insisted he enjoyed. Probably more than anything, John loved family gatherings. He talked for weeks in advance about when his niece, Amy, and her family were coming out for a visit and most everything positive anyone ever did or that ever occurred, he attributed to his nephew-in-law, Bob. John adored Bob. The feeling was mutual.
Upon his brother-in-law’s passing (over 10 years ago) and his sister, Sharon’s, passing (four years ago), John moved into Ascension Via Christi Village at Broadmoor, an assisted living facility. While many questioned how a regimented man like John would fare with such a big change, he acclimated wonderfully. Here, he received wonderful care and made many friends. John’s only complaint was that the roast was not as tender as what his sister, Sharon, used to make and they served too many sandwiches. While John liked most foods, especially Mexican food, he HATED sandwiches. And here, like anywhere, whatever he ate, he always stopped when he was full. John continued to love routine at his new place. He had one nonalcoholic beer every Monday with his beef jerky and was certain to let his nieces, Amy and Jennifer, know when his Keurig coffee pods dropped below 50 and therefore, evidenced vacant holes in his display containers.
One of the most intriguing things about John was his incredible memory and ability to retain and recall facts. He was interested in all things geographical, historical and related to heritage. John learned more from TV than most of us can probably recall from all of our time in high school. If anyone wanted to know something, we would call John into the room. He could tell you the year Myles Standish came over on the Mayflower and the name of Myles’ wife. John was happy to explain to anyone about the Texas Rangers and how Arizona’s Rangers are no longer the same as they were years ago.
Probably most noteworthy, John loved animals, refusing to pick a favorite and insisting until the end of time that the leopard at the zoo only wanted to befriend the boy who crawled over the fence. Much like he refused to say that he favored his niece, Jennifer, over his other niece, Amy, he insisted he liked both cats and dogs equally. John had the best disposition of anyone we have ever met. He was never heard speaking an ill word about anyone and he looked past grievances. Many of us learned a lot from John and will miss him terribly.
As John came to the end of life, Harry Hynes Hospice was again there for our family. We would like to acknowledge their staff for their exceptional care and concern.
John is survived by his nieces Amy (Bob) Schell, Jennifer Reid and Suzanne Rickabaugh; nephews Keith (Erin) Rickabaugh and Michael (Kit) Rickabaugh, and many great-nieces and nephews.
John is preceded in death by his parents, J. Evert and Velva (Todd) Gray, sister, Sharon Reid and her husband, Tom, and sister, Patricia Rickabaugh and her husband James, as well as his niece, Kathy (Tony) Blanset. John would note that he was preceded in death also by former pets Garth, Lexi, Sam, Ringo and Caymus.
The family will be present to greet friends on Friday, March 4, from noon–1:45 p.m., at Petersen Funeral Home. A procession to Greenwood Cemetery will follow for the graveside committal service with Pastor Donna Voteau presiding. Family and friends will gather after the burial at the Breadbasket for fellowship.
Instead of flowers, memorials have been established with Caring Hands Humane Society in Newton, and Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice, Wichita.