John Henry Gray of Scio, Ohio, died Monday, May 11, 2020, at Union Hospital in Dover, Ohio, from cardiac arrest after suffering a fall on Sunday. He was 89.
Mr. Gray was born July 3, 1930, in Auburn Township in Tuscarawas County, the oldest of seven children born to Henry John and Ida (Stress) Gray. At 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving three years before returning home to Harrison County to work in the steel mills. When he found himself laid off, he once again chose to serve his country, this time enlisting in the U.S. Air Force. He served 17 years, with assignments that included a tour of duty in wartime Vietnam as well as postings in Germany, England, South Dakota and Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. He retired in 1968 as a technical sergeant.
While stationed in England, he met an Italian girl, Michelina Basile. She would joke that she liked him for his car, a 1956 Chevy, but their love had staying power; they dated, married and had three children, Anthony, Elizabeth and Joseph, before the family moved to the States, when John was reassigned to South Dakota. Their fourth child, Paul, was born there.
After retiring from the service in Oklahoma, Mr. Gray moved the family to Jewett, Ohio, near where he grew up and near where his parents and four of his siblings lived. He went to work as a mechanic at the Scio Pottery Company, then later as a welder at Nolan Company in Bowerston. He retired in the 1990s.
In his retirement years, Mr. Gray spent time working on cars and other automotive machinery, often helping friends and neighbors with vehicles in need of repair. He also liked making the rounds of estate auctions to hunt for vintage or antique cast iron pans — often giving them to his children, all of whom now own a Griswold or two — and tending his backyard garden. He enjoyed working on his computer, morel mushroom hunting, and arts and crafts — he made wood canes and steel yard decorations — and liked helping others. Most of all, he loved sitting around with family telling stories. He was a former member of the Scio American Legion and of the Jewett Sportsman Club, where his kids loved to swim.
Michelina Gray died of end stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in 2009 after a brief illness. A few years later, Mr. Gray sold the family home in Jewett where he had lived for more than 40 years. After stints living with his daughter in Florida, and then with his sister, Shirley Snyder, on her farm outside Jewett, he settled in Scio, where he had been living for the past few years.
In addition to his parents and his wife, he was preceded in death by a grandson, Tyler; and a sister, Nancy Jean Gray.
Surviving are his dear friend and companion Beverly Custer of Dennison; six children: Anthony Gray (Jolene) of Euclid, Ohio; Joseph Gray (Chris Layton) of Chicago; Elizabeth Greer (Dale Covington) of Cape Canaveral, Florida; Paul Gray (Cody Wilson) of Zionsville, Indiana; Robert Ziegler (Marga) of Germany and Henry Ziegler (Gerlinde) of Germany; three brothers: Billy Gray of Phoenix; Rodney Gray (Donna) of Twinsburg, Ohio and Robert Gray (Frances) of Germano; two sisters, Shirley Snyder of Jewett and Betty Blood (Dale) of Prescott Valley, Arizona; dozens of nieces and nephews; and nine grandchildren.
Memorial contributions may be made to support the Conotton Creek Trail, part of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, 90151 Kilgore Road, Scio, OH 43988.
A private service will be held at a future date, assisted by Clark-Kirkland Funeral Home, Cadiz, Ohio. Online condolences may be made at www.clark-kirkland.com.