The Rev. Douglas Walker Gray
The Reverend Douglas Walker Gray, 95, died Monday, July 31, 2017, in his home in Schenectady, in the presence of his loving family.
Doug was a Presbyterian minister in several parishes in New York state.
Born in Brooklyn, 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, graduating in January 1943, through the war-time accelerated graduation program, as a Navy chaplaincy enlistee. He then entered Princeton Theological Seminary, graduating as an ordained minster with a master’s degree in divinity, and entered the Navy Chaplain Corps, posted to the Naval Station in Pearl Harbor.
Doug’s first parish was a three-church circuit Presbyterian parish in the Adirondack Mountains: St. Regis/Paul Smiths, Lake Clear and Harrietstown, arriving with his wife Pattie in October 1945 in an unusually early blizzard. He left that parish in 1951 to pursue further education under the GI 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 Doug’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, Doug accepted the pastor position in the First Presbyterian Church in Fulton in the Lake Ontario snowbelt, where he and Pattie remained until 1977, when Doug enthusiastically undertook a project with the Albany Presbytery to help invigorate rural parishes. Upon conclusion of that project, Doug accepted a call to the First United Presbyterian Church in Oneonta, from which he retired in 1987.
In the late ’70s, anticipating retirement, Doug and Pattie purchased 30 acres of maple woods in rural Schoharie County. In retirement, working with close friend Frank Chesebrough and many family, friends, and neighbors who stopped by to help clear brush or boil sap, Doug and Pattie produced what was universally acclaimed as the best maple syrup ever.
August was almost always spent at their camp at Silver Lake in the Adirondacks where as a child he spent summers with his extended family from Brooklyn and Montreal, and once swam the 4-mile length of the lake. As a parent, he and Pattie relished canoeing, fishing and hiking the local peaks with their three children. Doug also relished his early morning swims. Doug became an avid, self-taught sailor and finally won the coveted Silver Lake Sunday Race Trophy. With his understated penchant for adventure, when visiting Pattie’s family’s 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. In 2006, at age 84, Doug entered the Willard Hanmer Guideboat Race on Lake Flower in the Village of Saranac Lake, rowing to first place in an age-class, three-boat field.
Doug had an abiding passion for the Adirondacks and protection of the natural world. Doug and Pattie became founding members of the Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks (The Wild Center) in Tupper Lake, to support the museum’s mission to introduce youth to the wonders of nature and the Adirondack Park.
Doug was a survivor of 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. He is remembered for his desire to share, and his interest in others.
Doug is survived by his loving wife of 71 years, Pattie; his children Roger (Monica), Portia Hubert (Gary) and Lee (Beth); and his grandchildren Matthew Hubert, and Christine Hubert.
He was predeceased by brother Washington Malcolm Gray Jr.
A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Aug. 5, at the Hamilton Union Presbyterian Church, 2291 Western Avenue, Guilderland, NY, 12084-9747.
Memorial gifts may be sent in memory of Douglas Gray to The Wild Center — Natural History Museum of the Adirondacks, 45 Museum Drive, Tupper Lake, NY 12986, or to the Hamilton Union Presbyterian Church, 2291 Western Avenue, Guilderland, NY 12084.