Rev. Douglas Walker Gray

Rev. Douglas Walker Gray

The Reverend Douglas Walker Gray, a Presbyterian minister in several parishes in New York State, including in Guilderland, died on Monday, July 31, 2017, in his home in Schenectady in the presence of his loving family. He was 95.

“He is remembered for his desire to share, and his interest in others,” his son wrote in a tribute.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, on Jan. 22, 1922, to Washington Malcolm Gray and Elizabeth Carlisle Walker, he attended Adelphi Academy, in Brooklyn. In 1941, he entered Hamilton College, in Clinton, New York, where he majored in English literature and participated on the varsity swimming team, graduating in January 1943, through the wartime accelerated graduation program, as a Navy chaplaincy enlistee.

He then entered Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating as an ordained minister with a master’s degree in divinity, and entered the Navy Chaplain Corps, posted to the Naval Station in Pearl Harbor.

His first parish was a three-church circuit Presbyterian parish in the Adirondack Mountains: St. Regis/Paul Smiths, Lake  Clear, and Harrietstown. He arrived with his wife, Pattie, in October 1945 in an unusually early blizzard.

Rev. Gray left that parish in 1951 to pursue further education under the G.I. Bill, and received a master’s  degree in theology from Princeton Seminary in 1952, accepting a call to his next parish, the Mariaville Presbyterian Church, near Schenectady.

In March 1956, in an unusually late snowstorm, the family moved to Rev. Gray’s new parish, the Hamilton Union Presbyterian Church in Guilderland, which he described as a “most loving and caring community,” and where he and Pattie raised their three children.

In 1972, after getting his children through college, Rev. Gray accepted the pastor position in the First Presbyterian Church in Fulton, New York, in the Lake Ontario snowbelt, where he and his wife remained until 1977, when Rev. Gray enthusiastically undertook a project with the Albany Presbytery to help invigorate rural parishes. Upon conclusion of that project, he accepted a call to the First United Presbyterian Church in Oneonta, New York, from which he retired in 1987.

In the late 1970s, anticipating retirement, the Grays purchased 30 acres of maple woods in rural Schoharie County. In retirement, working with close friend Frank Chesebrough and many family members, friends, and neighbors who stopped by to help clear brush or boil sap, the Grays produced what, their son said, “was universally acclaimed as the best maple syrup ever.”

The Grays almost always spent August at their camp at Silver Lake in the Adirondacks where as a child Rev. Gray had spent summers with his extended family from Brooklyn and Montreal, and once swam the four-mile length of the lake. As parents, the Grays relished canoeing, fishing, and hiking the local peaks with their three children. Rev. Gray also relished his early-morning swims.

He became an avid, self-taught sailor and finally won the coveted Silver Lake Sunday Race Trophy.  With his understated penchant for adventure, when visiting his wife’s family camp near Baltimore he successfully and unintentionally threaded his sailing dinghy through a fleet of Naval Academy midshipmen on a sailing exercise in the Chesapeake Bay.  

Rev. Gray had an abiding passion for the Adirondacks and protection of the natural world. He and his wife became founding members of the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks (The Wild Center) in Tupper Lake, New York, to support the museum’s mission to introduce youth to the wonders of nature and the Adirondack Park.

Rev. Gray survived lung cancer in 2007, and another bout in 2011. He was vigorous and engaged in the world even when the cancer returned in 2017. Despite the drain on his energies, he remained concerned about the condition of the world and the plight of defenseless people.

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The Reverend Douglas Walker Gray is survived by his loving wife of 71 years, Pattie; by his children, Roger Gray and his wife, Monica, Portia Hubert and her husband, Gary, and Lee Gray and his wife, Beth; and by his grandchildren, Matthew Hubert and Christine Hubert.

His brother, Washington Malcolm Gray Jr, died before him.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017, at the Hamilton Union Presbyterian Church at 2291 Western Ave. in Guilderland.

Memorial donations may be made to The Wild Center, 45 Museum Drive, Tupper Lake, NY 12986, and to the Hamilton Union Presbyterian Church, 2291 Western Avenue, Guilderland, NY 12084.

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