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Gray, Anthony William
Anthony "Tony" William Gray passed peacefully from this world on Saturday, August 14, 2010, in Peoria, IL, surrounded by his large and loving family, at the age of 89.

Tony was born on his family farm in Pulaski, Indiana, on March 11, 1921, the son of William and Mary Magdalene (Yager) Gray. He was the fifth of six brothers and sisters. He attended a one-room country schoolhouse until entering Winamac High School, graduating in May of 1940. Tony's life-long love of traveling began in the following year when he and his father drove to California. He would eventually visit all 50 states.

Like so many of his generation, Tony enlisted in the military (the U.S. Navy) following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. After "Boot Training" in San Diego, he shipped out on the liberty ship, the USS Celeno, sailing under San Franciscos Golden Gate Bridge on January 10, 1943, to join the Pacific Fleet at New Caledonia. For the next three years, Tony served as quartermaster aboard the Celeno, surviving an attack off Guadalcanal by more than 100 dive bombers that caused severe damage and many casualties. Recalling his military experience, Tony, being a man of God, once wrote that during war "one learns to pray a lot even though not a church goer and one realizes that there is a 'Higher Power' or God that must be able to in some way be helpful." The faith that took hold during war grew stronger over the course of his life. (Which may explain the date of his passing: on the 65th anniversary of V-J Day.)

After the war, Tony attended Purdue University under the G.I. Bill, graduating in three years as a member of the Class of 1949. He then returned to work the land as a professional farm manager for 55 years. He began with Doane Agricultural Service before forming his own business, Gray Farm Management.

In 1959, Tony met the love of his life, Sonia JaVana Gabrielson, a Swedish-American beauty from Andover, IL. They were married at the Immaculate Heart of Mary church on January 17, 1959. They settled in Galesburg where they raised seven children.

Tony was a charter member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish and a trustee since 1969. He served on the original parish council from 1975 to 1980 and on the church building committee from 1977 to 1980. He has been an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist since was formed in 1975 and was one of the parish's first lectors, serving from the 1960s until the program 1990. A member of the Knights of Columbus since 1950, Tony held the positions of inner sentinel and outer sentinel for the Third Degree and faithful navigator for the Fourth Degree. The Catholic Diocese of Peoria honored Tony's lifetime of work for the Lord, presenting him with the Pere Marquette Award for Christian Service in 2003.

Tony also played a major role in the community outside of the Church. He joined the Kiwanis Club of Galesburg in 1986 and served as president in 1992. He also served as president of the American Field Service club in Galesburg in 1979. Tony was active in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and their food pantry, Habitat for Humanity, Us TOO, and the Macular Degeneration support group.

He was preceded in death by his brothers, Andrew and Louis, and sisters, Ruth, Mabel and Margaret Ann.

The one-time sailor from Indiana leaves a host of loved-ones in his wake, too numerous to list here. Immediate family include:

His loving wife, Sonia JaVana (Gabrielson) Gray.

His sister, Loretta (Gray) Sanders.

His children: Rodney Carlos (Idalee) Gray, Joel John (Julie) Gray, Sonia Kelly (John) Nelson, Joseph Anthony Gray, Mary Edith (Osha) Davidson, Patrick Gabrielson (Deb) Gray, Michael Edward Gray.

Grandchildren: Becky, Celeste, Christopher, David G., David N., Erica, Haley, Jennifer , J.R., Kim, Leann, Liam, Marie, Marley, Melissa, Michelle, Mindy, Natalie, Sara, Sarah, Sienna.

Great-grandchildren: Adam, Alexandra, Brooke, Cage, Camryn, Carson, Chandler, Chase, Cierra, Colton, Frida, Gabriella, Hannah, Isaac, Katie, Landon, Michaela.

Funeral Mass will be 11 a.m. Wednesday, August 18, 2010 at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, with Msgr. Ernest Pizzamiglio and Deacon Rodney Gray officiating. Visitation will be 5-8 p.m. Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at Watson Funeral Home, with the rosary being prayed at 8 p.m. Additional visitation will be from 10-10:45 a.m. at the church. Burial will be in St. Joseph's Cemetery, Galesburg. Memorials may be made to the family for a fund to be established in remembrance of Anthony W. Gray to benefit Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church.
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