Born at home in Beech Flats on April 7th, 1921, he was the son of Charlie and Velma (Stevenson) Gray.
He attended the LeRoy Elementary School for eight years, followed by canton High School, graduating with the class of 1938. He worked for local farmers, as well as his parents’ general store, coal and wood business in West LeRoy.
In 1942, after working in the steel mill in Canton, Ohio, Willis quit his job, sold his car and returned to Canton to join the United States Marine Corps. He was a parachute rigger and trainer until June of 1942 when he was sent to the Pacific Theater of Operations of the Second World War. During his two years of service in the Pacific, Mr. Gray served in campaigns in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, for which he received battle stars. While home on leave he met Marilyn Castle, the love of his life. They were married November 3rd, 1944 at the Mourland Park estate in East Canton. Together they raised a son and daughter, and shared almost 70 years until Marilyn’s passing in 2014.
Willis was stationed at New Bern, NC for the duration of the war. From 1946 until 1954 Willis worked as a salesman for the Canton firm of W.W. Gleckner & Son, covering the state of Pennsylvania. He then went to work as an office manager for the Van Dyne Oil Co. in Troy until Gleckner’s offered him the position of purchasing agent & part time salesman. He returned to Gleckner’s and retired in 1986.
Mr. Gray was very active in the community. He was a member of the Troy Rotary Club and served more than once in the capacities of president and secretary. He was an active, and very devoted, member of the Church of Christ in Canton where he served in various positions including church treasurer, Sunday School Superintendent, Sunday School teacher, elder, deacon and member of the property committee.
He served as a member of the canton Area School District School Board for six years, volunteered at the Canton Clothing Center, delivered Meals on Wheels, was caretaker of Morse Park and was auditor for Canton Borough for many years.
His strong faith in God and his love of others gave him the desire to serve and help in any way possible. Most importantly, he was a devoted son, husband, father grandfather and great-grandfather. He loved to travel with his wife, Marilyn, and enjoyed daily walks with his “granddogs.” He loved sports, both as a participant and spectator, and was an avid reader. He also was a 14 gallon blood donor to the Red Cross.
Willis is survived by brother, Donald Cray of California; son Gary (& Rita) Gray, Birmingham, AL, daughter & son-in-law, Marla & Bradley Morgan, Canton, grandchildren Nicholas (& Angela) Morgan, Shrewsbury MA, Erin (& Catlin) Tench, Montgomery, AL and Caitlin Gray, Birmingham, AL. Also surviving are three great-grandchildren, as well as many nieces, nephews and cousins.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Marilyn, brother Waldo Gray, sisters Mildred Van Dyke and Doris Kennedy.
Visitation was held April 12th at the Canton Church of Christ (Disciples), E, Canton, followed by a Service with the Rev. Bonnie Browning officiating.
Interment was held in East Canton Cemetery.
Memorial contributions in Willis’ name may be directed to the Canton Church of Christ Memorial Fund, 170 n. Minnequa Ave, Canton, or the Green Free Library, 38 n. Center St., Canton, PA, 17724.