Walter “Walt” James Gray, Sr., age 79, of Mena passed away on Saturday, February 13th, 2016 surrounded by his adoring family. He was married to Ruth Elaine Pierpont Gray, the love of his life, for 60 years. Walt was first and foremost a family man and was immensely proud of his six children, sixteen grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren and some special foster children whom he called his own.
He was born in Danbury, Connecticut, on September 7, 1936, to Bell Dacota Gray and Marion Gray. He joined the U. S. Marine Corps at the age of 17, where he proudly served his country for 20 years during the Korean and Vietnam eras. After his retirement in 1973, he moved with his family to Mena and opened Gray’s Nursery and Landscaping which he operated for 17 years. Walt then began working for the City of Mena Parks Department as Parks Director. He later worked for Walmart in the Garden Center. He was elected to the Mena City Council where he served the community for 12 years.
Walt was a pillar of wisdom and leadership in the community. He was an avid volunteer and served in numerous roles for organizations such as the Rotary Club, Optimist Club and Marine Corps League. He was especially passionate about working with young people, organizing the city’s Teen Council, Teens in Motion and Kids Make a Difference, an after school program. He was parade organizer for the Lum and Abner Days parade and the Mena City Christmas parade for decades.
He is survived by, wife, Ruth Elaine Pierpont Gray of Mena; sister, Florence Gray Berrien of Milford; daughters, Wendy Syfrett and husband Tim of Red Oak and their children, Lisa, Tim, Travis and Kyle as well as two great-grandchildren; C.J. Scarlet of Clayton and her sons, Sean and Steven as well as two great-grandchildren, Susan Conley of Carrollton and her children, Jonathan, Sarah, Caitlin and Grayson; sons, Walter Gray, Jr. and wife Carolyn of Mena and their children, Kori and Jamie, as well as six great grandchildren, Norman Gray and wife Traci of Mena and their children, Krystin, Jocelyn, Dacota and one great grandchild; grandson, Darrell Leonhart and wife Katie of Oklahoma City and one great-grandchild.
Walt was preceded in death by, his parents; brothers, Bob Gray and Roland Gray; a daughter, Janice Gray and a great-grandchild, Riley Gray Hudson.
Funeral services will be Friday, February 19, 2016 at 10:30 am. at the First United Methodist Church in Mena, with Pastor Ann Ferris officiating. Interment will follow in the Pinecrest Memorial Park in Mena, under the direction of the Beasley Wood Funeral Home of Mena.
Family and friend visitation will be Thursday, February 18 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at Beasley-Wood Funeral Home.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations in Walt’s name to The Herbert Littleton Branch of the Marine Corps League Toys for Tots, P.O. Box 1215, Mena, AR 71953.