Eugene "Gene" Gray, 55, of Schell City, Mo was welcomed into Heaven on Jan. 23, 2008, from the Elleitt Memorial Hospital, in Appleton City, Mo., after a long struggle with cancer. Gene was born on Dec. 29, 1952, at Walnut Ridge, Ark., to Aileen Gray. Gene spent the first 12 years of his life in Arkansas where he was a typical mischievous kid. Many times he would tell of riding his bike, and selling pop bottles so he could go to the movies. He said he would take the five or six bottles that they had found, turn them in to the storekeeper, and offer take them the alley behind the store, only to take the same five or six bottles to the next store.
At the age of 12, he was adopted by Holbert Clay Heath and came to live in the Schell City area. He graduated from Fort Scott Christian Heights, in 1971. He was voted the class clown in more than one of his High School years. He would often brag about his stunt such as getting into trouble for spitting out the bus window. Of course the bus window was on the other side of the bus and the wind was blowing. This took the spit right through the window to the seat behind him into the face of the two girls sitting in that seat. Or maybe it was because he made cat noises in music class and the teacher would stop class to try and find the cat in the room.
After graduation, Gene attended Southwest Baptist College, in Bolivar, Mo. This is where he gained his love of learning. Learning was the one thing they could never take away from you he often said. He shared this love with many students. in 1978, He became the superintendent of the Rich Rock Christian Academy located just north of Schell City where the family resides today. Fun was included whether it was while cutting wood to keep the school warm, and of course roasting a hot dog or two or by the students sneaking off to the creek without permission, only to be caught by the leeches they had to remove when they got back to school. These students were disciplined only after Gene would quit laughing. When the school closed in 1987, he continued to teach at the Schell City Public School. Many students can tell of his wonderful gift to teach hard subjects like long division, and his love of History. He was transferred to the Northeast Vernon County High School, in 2002, where he was an aide in the Special Education Department. He loved to play Dominoes with the kids. They thought he was nice to play with them, but he was really teaching them math skills. Gene drove a school bus for 11 years.
His heart went out to all the parents and students as they watched there little ones get on for the first day of school. Parents knew that their little ones would be loved and protected on Mr. Gray's bus. Gene was all for school spirit in the NEVC school. He cheered for the kids as he sat on the stage and would cheer the teams on with his loud booming voice. Gene was called to the ministry at an early age and started his first pastorate at the Rockville Baptist Church in Rockville, Mo., at 18. He pastured there for 30 years. In 2002, he became the pastor of the Schell City Baptist Church where he ministered until his coronation into heaven this last week. Gene loved to preach. He loved being a pastor. He was never attached to worldly possessions, but was touched by the saving of a soul.
In 1985, Gene married Paula Kay Porter and to this union two children were born, Shannon Linae Gray, 17, and Clayton Eugene Madison Gray, 15. He loved his children. Gene loved nature. He loved taking young boys to the mountains and looking at the splendor of God's creation. Every time he would get to the mountains he would talk of the verse that says, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills for which cometh my strength." He would make the comment that if you looked that far up and all of it was strength, you were truly strong with the Lord. His love for fishing, and hunting would always bring a laugh as he would tell of falling down creek beds coon hunting, tipping over boats, or telling of the big one that got away.
Gene is preceded in death by his mother, Aileen Gray and his adopted father Holbert C. Heath. He is survived by his wife Paula, daughter Shannon and son Clayton, all of the home. A half-brother Danny Ray Turnbow and wife Mary, of Illinois, three foster brothers Dale Purington, Paul Porter and wife Judy, of Muskogee, Okla., and Edward Case, of Kansas City, Mo. Gene had many family members but no friends. If you knew Gene, he always considered you family.
His final words as he lay in the hospital were never of him but always of others. He would ask this question with all of the strength he could get, "Will you meet me in Heaven? Everyone said, "Yes" and he would continue with one single word: PROMISE! Gene touched and inspired more people than even he knew and will be greatly missed by all.
Funeral services for Bro. Gene Gray were held at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 27, at the NEVC High School gymnasium, with Bro Curtis Townley officiated. Pallbearers were Maj. Richard Hoback, Matt Higgins, Jim Yates, Fred Carlton, Mike Newman, Doug Reynolds, Claude Allen, Rob McKinney, Lucas Quamme, and Kenny Hallam. Honorary pallbearers were Joe Bell, and Robert Rash. Interment was in the Green Lawn Cemetery in Schell City. Memorials are suggested to the family. Funeral arrangements for Bro. Gene Gray were entrusted to the Lewis-Hoagland Funeral Home, in Schell City.