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Cleo Gray was a Daytona Beach icon. He was so loved by so many and had an amazing quality that could put a smile on anyone's face! His untimely death occurred on Monday, December 10, 2012 after a brief illness. Cleo lived in Daytona Beach for more than 50 years. He was born in Fayette County, Alabama on March 14, 1933 and grew up in Birmingham AL. In 1950, he joined the U.S. Air Force, serving during the Korean Conflict. He was stationed in Tripoli, Libya and in Korea. He was honorably discharged with many decorations. He lived in Houston, TX where he drove a city bus by day and was a Texas Middleweight Golden Gloves Champion by night, being dubbed in newspaper articles as the "Battling Bus Driver." He reigned as the Middleweight Champion for 4 years. Eventually, Cleo moved to Daytona Beach, where he became the Business Agent for the Cement and Plasterers Union from 1969 - 1980, organizing the building of several of the beachside's first high rise condos and the NSB Speedway, where he later raced cars. He took great pride in driving by these projects and saying "I built that!" Cleo spent eleven years serving in the Merchant Marines, traveling all over the world, and had so many great stories to tell about faraway places. He loved to quote Yogi Berra and Brother Dave Gardner and was a master joke teller at any gathering. He had a huge smile and a huge heart. Cleo was a Notary Public for many years, held a multi-engine pilots license, was a Real Estate Broker for over 25 years, and the licensed Broker for Elinor Gray Realty Corp. at the time of his death. He was a member of Bahia Shrine, Orlando, FL for over 35 years, and was a founding charter member of Bahia Patrol in Daytona Beach with whom he spent several years in charge of the largest concession stand at the time at DIS. He was a huge NASCAR fan, and his favorite drivers were Bill Elliott and Mark Martin. He also helped raise thousands of dollars for the Shriners Crippled and Burn Hospitals. He was a member of Ormond Beach Masonic Lodge 361 for 39 years, a Life Member of VFW 1590, member of Loyal Order of the Moose 2516 and the Fraternal Order of the Eagles #4401 in South Daytona He was also a Kentucky Colonel. Cleo was a member of the American Legion for 54 years, Past Commander of Holly Hill Post 120, and until his death a member of Post #361 in South Daytona, where he helped build the Post in 1997, working tirelessly for five months with other volunteers. In 1989 Cleo joined the DBPD, working as a Reserve Officer for Special Events and earning the honor of First Runner-Up Reserve/SEO in 2007 and was commended by Chief Mike Chitwood for meritorious service. He was dubbed the "Candyman" by the police force, as he always passed out candy to the other officers while directing traffic. He was the oldest reserve policeman in Daytona Beach history. Cleo leaves behind to cherish his memory his son Gary Alan Gray, Port Orange, FL; his grandson, Cleophas Shelby Gray II, Ormond Beach, FL; his loving wife of 31 years, Elinor Gray; granddaughter, Brandy Graham, Sanibel Island, FL; his sister Wanda Abney, Gardendale, AL; many nieces and nephews in Alabama; his stepchildren, David Johnson, Bill Johnson, Julie Forrest, Lisa Johnson, and Ron Johnson, all in Oregon; and several step-grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A Celebration of Cleo's life will be held on Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 2:00 pm at the American Legion Post 120, 461 Walker St., Holly Hill, FL with Cmdr. Esther Brewer officiating. A light lunch will also be served. Condolences may be shared with his family at www.HeritageDaytona.com. All services are under the direction of Heritage Funeral and Cremation Service, Port Orange, FL.
Published in Daytona Beach News-Journal on Dec. 13, 2012