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Robert Lee Gray

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Robert Lee Gray

October 18, 1931-March 18, 2014

Robert L. Gray, physicist, author, father, left this life on March 18, 2014 at the age of 83.

He was born on October 18, 1931 in Monessen, Pennsylvania to Cecilia Regina Cairns and Oliver Thomas Gray. He and his brother William (Bing) spent their childhood in a bustling household of cousins, cared for by his mother, aunts, and grandfather. His cousins and friends called him Bobby Lee.

A star athlete in school, he earned varsity letters in basketball, football, and baseball at California Community High School in California, Pennsylvania and played college basketball. After graduating from high school in 1949, he went on to earn his baccalaureate degree at California State Teachers' College.

A Korean War Veteran, Robert proudly served our country in the United States Navy (1951-1955) as an electronic technician aboard the U.S.S. Oriskany (CV-34). During his service he was awarded a National Defense Service Medal, a Good Conduct Medal, a Korean Service Medal, and a United Nations Service Medal. In 1956 he married Antoinette Louise Gardina, known as Ann, and together they had seven children. (They later divorced.) The family residence was on Valley View Circle in South Amherst. The Grays and the other neighborhood children participated in the annual July 4 South Amherst parade as the Valley View Circlettes, riding in floats their dad had created.

Robert spent most of his professional career at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, teaching physics and as an administrator in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. He was particularly interested in developing effective science education techniques for use by middle- and high-school teachers. In 1988 Robert received the Chancellor's Citation "in recognition of exemplary and outstanding performance in the service of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst." He wrote self-help textbooks on physics, including "Physics Problems: Mechanics and Heat" published in 1974.

After retiring from UMass, Robert moved to Torrance, California to live with his dear companion, Marie Peck. For over twenty-five years they enjoyed a wonderful life together, each acknowledging how fortunate they were to share so much joy. Marie passed in January 2012.

Known to many as Papa, Robert "The Hawk" Gray was especially devoted to his children and Marie's, and all of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. His talents included playing guitar, organic gardening before it was fashionable, cooking, golf, physics, and writing letters to the editor of The Daily Breeze. Of note, on his enlistment record Robert documented his leisure activities as building model airplanes and performing as an amateur magician. He shared all of these interests and skills with his children and grandchildren, and taught them his military stories, resourceful auto mechanics, and how to count cards. In 2012 Robert left southern California to live once again in Massachusetts. In the winter of 2013 he enjoyed time in Santa Fe, New Mexico, residing with son Don and grandson Owen.

Robert is survived by his seven children, Molly Gray of Northampton MA, Christopher Gray of Granby MA, Susanne Gray Stankowski of Deerfield MA, Don Gray of Santa Fe NM, Jen Gray of Northampton MA, Jonathan Gray of Palm Springs CA, and Katie Gray of Holyoke MA, and by Marie's daughters Cathy Peck of Los Angeles CA, and Nancy Kuttler of Torrance, CA, and their spouses and partners. Many grandchildren and great-grandchildren survive Robert as well.

The family will hold private services and interment at the Massachusetts Veterans' Cemetery in Agawam. Memorial donations may be made in Robert L. Gray's name to Baystate Children's Hospital or the . Please sign the guest book at www.dailybreeze.com/obits.
Published in Daily Breeze on June 6, 2014
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