A Mass of Christian Burial for John J. Gray, Sr., 85, 15 Main St., Helena, will be held Saturday, at 1 p.m., at St. Patrick’s Church in Hogansburg, followed by military burial honors. Calling hours will be held Friday from 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. at the Donaldson Funeral Home in Massena. The members of the VFW will hold a memorial service at 3:00 p.m., followed by the Knights of Columbus at 3:30 p.m. The members of the Massena Volunteer Fire Department will meet at 7:30 p.m. Burial will be held privately in St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Hogansburg.
Mr. Gray died surrounded by his family at Massena Memorial Hospital, on Monday, Nov. 22, 2010, where he had been a patient since Thursday. He had been in ill health for the past three months.
John J. Gray, Sr., was born in the Town of Brasher on Jan. 26, 1925, the eldest son of Vernon. P. and Josephine Gaffney Gray. He graduated at the top of his class from Bombay High School in 1942. The following year he was drafted into the U.S. Army where he served for three years during World War II as a corporal in the 838th Anti-Aircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion. He was the last surviving member of his gun crew in Battery C.
A combat veteran, he participated in the Battle of the Bulge with the Third Army under command of General George S. Patton. His unit proceeded through Germany, crossed the Rhine River and eventually liberated Dachau Concentration Camp with the Seventh Army under General Alexander Patch. He was honorably discharged in 1946 and was awarded the U.S. Army Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with two battle stars, WWII Victory Medal, and the German Occupation Medal. He served an additional 15 years in the Reserves, where he was the first enlisted man in the Massena Reserve Unit and eventually achieved the rank of First Sergeant.
After the war Mr. Gray worked for the New York State Conservation Department’s reforestation project and the Aluminum Company of America where he was a millwright. He was laid off at ALCOA and went to work on the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway and the New York Power Authority’s St. Lawrence Power Project. He was then employed at the newly opened Reynolds Metals Co. He eventually left that job to return to ALCOA, where he worked until the mid-1960s. In 1957, he and his wife opened Gray’s General Store in Helena, which they operated for the next 30 years.
On June 24, 1950, he married Madeleine Montpetit at St. Patrick’s Church with Msgr. Walter Funcke officiating.
Mr. Gray is survived by his wife of 60 years; four sons, John J. Gray, Jr., and his wife, Christine of Colton, Gerald J. and Paula Gray of Helena, R. Shawn and Barb Gray of Massena, and Joseph D. and Marcy Gray of Massena; nine grandchildren, John J. Gray, III, Kevin Gray and his wife Lezlie, Angela Gray and Jay Simmons, Jennifer Gray, Stephanie Gray and her fiancée Darrin Gilbert, Matthew Gray, Nicholas Gray, Andrew Gray, and Christopher Gray; and four sisters, Eileen Vanderbilt, Morrisonville, Elizabeth Greathouse, Vancouver, WA, Shirley Montpeitit, Portage, IN, and Charlotte Smith, Ft. Covington.
He was predeceased by three brothers, Donald on July 14, 1957, Archie on June 26, 1993 and Robert on Jan. 5, 2004.
He was a lifelong communicant of St. Patrick’s Church and was a member of Knights of Columbus St. Lawrence Council 1141, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1143, American Legion Post 1479 in Hogansburg, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 171 and was a former member of the St. Lawrence Republican County Committee.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Trinity Catholic School Endowment Fund or the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 171 for the VA van transportation fund.