James David Gray, perpetual optimist, fun dad, soccer aficionado, golf enthusiast, confidant, hardworking gentleman, and a million other beautiful things, died April 18, 2021, following a life well-lived.
Jim was born at Markdale, Ontario, Canada, the first son of Eileen and Goldie Gray. His father, the town doctor, was the attending physician to his birth. Jim was rarely believed when he told this story, until he proved it on his long-form birth certificate. This was the beginning of Jim’s colorful life and knack for storytelling.
Jim, only younger to sister Christy, had the dubious task of setting an example for his three younger siblings: Barbara, Billy and Barry. His young boy pranks included: eating prized fruit from Mr. Lucas’s tree; reflecting a beam of sunlight into Mr. Steer’s living room; and mishaps with a BB gun and hand-crafted bow and arrow. These events became legends, and thankfully only led to a handful of minor injuries and spanked bottoms.
Jim spent his formative years at St. Andrew’s College where he developed his passion for virtually all sports, especially rugby. There he joined forces with a group of young men, thicker than thieves, who became lifelong friends and confidants. Jim, also known as “Ferd,” “Berf,” “Body Beautiful,” “Fergacious” and “One of the Four Spades,” would later attend Queen’s University, playing Rugby for the Golden Gaels, graduating with a Bachelor’s of Physical Education.
Jim wasn’t defined by his work but he loved it, so it deserves some space here. He loved fixing and solving mechanical problems. But his true passions were helping people, building relationships, and forming friendships through the course of his successful career.
Jim was a self-taught craftsman, mechanic, engineer, electrician and plumber. Voted “most likely to survive a post-apocalyptic world,” he was handy enough to be dangerous, to improvise when necessary, and to keep the repairmen away from the door.
Jim was a frequent shopper at Canadian Tire and Home Depot, and subsequently built a formidable stockpile of random tools. We have no idea what they are used for, but were clearly necessary and desired for some job. Along with unnamed tools, his family was also bequeathed his collection of ladders. If you need one, stop by. No job is too big or too small for Jim’s ladder collection.
A quintessential napper, Jim could power nap on planes, trains, boats, and pretty much any parking lot where he found himself waiting to pick up his children. His favorite napping location was in his father’s chair, by a sunny lakeside window with his golden retriever on top of his feet. Janus misses you by the way.
Besides his mother and father, Jim was predeceased by his half siblings, Maggie and Alex, and sister-in-law Cheryl. Somewhere in the universe we are sure there is laughing, imbibing, and golfing going on amongst this fine group of Grays. Honey, enjoy this reunion and give them all our love.
Jim (Smilin’ Jim, Jeeem, The Jimmer) will be missed, remembered, and revered by countless extended family members, friends, and neighbors from around the globe. This diverse group who loved him dearly are a testament to his warm smile, approachability, tenderness, deep respect for human kind, and his desire to hear everyone’s story. As was Jim’s form, raise a glass and shake some ice for him.
Despite Jim’s many, many roles, his favorite was being a father. He put his whole heart into it. He will be remembered with reverence and affection by Gavin, Hunter, Elle, Jimmy D, Will, Adam (Emily and son Sully), and Kate (Andrew, children Finn and Pippa).
One of Jim’s most recent and most important roles was that of consummate best friend and husband to me, his wife Lisa. Sharing the last 18 years together, he gave me enough laughter, love, and passion to last a lifetime. He was vested in our family and everything he did circled back to us. Thank you to the moon babe. Our kids Elle (16), Hunter (14), and Gavin (11) have been told “Dad’s Life Lessons” since they were old enough to sit up. He has shaped their kindness, respect for others, athleticism, grittiness, and drive to “do the right thing.” This is just a handful of the qualities and values he bestowed upon them. These will serve them well their entire life. When they forget his stories and life lessons, we’ll all be there to remind them.
Jim still surrounds us. When we are inspired to act with kindness, when we give a hand-up to someone, when we lead with positivity, when we see that twinkle of grit and determination in his children’s eyes. He is here.
In the words of Nelson Mandela, “There is no passion to be found playing small and settling for a life that’s less than the one you’re capable of living.” Jim played big. Always.
Cremation has taken place. Friends, co-workers, our soccer and chosen families are welcome to help us celebrate Jim’s life at a social event of his choosing — outdoors at his home on Wednesday, May 26 (rain date Thursday, May 27), from 6 to 8 p.m. Refreshments, music, stories, and most importantly, laughter will rule the day. No black attire permitted. A second celebration will be held in Ontario when it is safe to do so and the border is open for travel.
For those wishing to pay-it-forward, donations may be made to the Jim Gray Memorial Fund, set up to help children wanting to play in the Montgomery County United Soccer Club who may not have the financial means to do so. Everyone needs a little help sometimes. Donations can be made by calling the Boys & Girls Club of Montgomery County at 765-362-8912 (please ask for Mandy or Heidi Fodor).
To share a memory of Jim, please pass it along to his family through Email, Facebook Messenger, Post or by visiting www.BurkhartFH.com.