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Elizabeth Kelly Gray

December 9, 2010

Elizabeth Kelly Gray died Dec. 7, 2010, in Houston, Texas. She was born Dec. 17, 1918, in Summerville, S.C.,to the late Cherry Lou Harvey Kelly and John Granberry Kelly. 
She was preceded in death by her husband, Malcolm G. “Red” Gray, her parents, a sister and brother-in-law, Cherry Dell and Doug Lee of Kingston, Ontario, her brother John G. Kelly of Greenville, South Carolina, and a nephew Charles Richard Kelly of Columbia, South Carolina.
She is survived by one sister and brother-in-law, Jule Hart Kelly Canaday and DeArmond Canaday of Greenwood, S.C., and one sister-in-law, Terry Cheatham Kelly. She is also survived by two sons, Malcolm Gray, Jr. and his wife, Ruth, and the Rev. Melvin K. Gray of Houston, Texas; and a daughter, Patricia Gray of Galveston, Texas. 
Her descendents include five grandchildren and six great grandchildren; Monica Opincar and her husband, John, Alex and Lila Opincar of Katy, Texas; Naylor Gray and his wife, Laura, Isaac and Edie Gray of San Antonio, Texas; Amelia Tyler and her husband, Chris, and Maria Tyler of Austin, Texas; Kelly Gray and fiancé, Kara Matheny, and Bethany Gray and son, Dylan, of Houston, Texas.
Mrs. Gray graduated from Winthrop College in Rock Hill, S.C, and earned a master of arts degree in journalism from the University of Iowa. She published the Clemson News in Clemson, S.C, for her master’s thesis prior to her marriage. 
She worked as executive assistant to Mississippi State College President Ben Hilbun, executive secretary to Dr. Clyde Sheely for the National Science Foundation Program at Mississippi State University and also served as adjunct professor of English.
She loved language and family meals often ended with a dictionary on the table as one child or another defended his or her word choice. She was also a stickler for the use of correct grammar, a trait that sometimes resulted in a letter home being returned with suggested corrections.
She brooked little foolishness from those who indulge in self-pity, but was a champion for those she felt were being taken advantage of. She challenged liquor store owners she caught selling to minors and payday lenders who, in her view, preyed on the poor. 
She was generous to individuals she saw struggling to help themselves, but criticized many organized charities as too free with administrative expenses, and not free enough with promised benefits. She, along with the local AAUW, was a driving force in getting the first mental health clinic started in Northeast Mississippi in the 1950s. 
She had a lifelong interest in genealogy, listened to the opera every Saturday afternoon on the radio, was an avid bridge player, and maintained beautiful flower gardens around her home in Starkville, Mississippi prior to her move to Houston in 1999. 
With her late husband, she fed large crowds on football weekends at Mississippi State, made her children’s friends welcome at all times and presided over neighborhood gatherings punctuated by children playing kick the can on warm summer evenings. 
She once calmly wore golf ball size cork and sequin earrings made by one of her children as a craft project while she and Red welcomed their bridge club for dessert and an evening of bridge.
She was a shrewd businesswoman who successfully managed her own investments with a preference for companies that have women on their board of directors and an avoidance of companies that paid what she viewed as excessive executive compensation.
The family will receive visitors at Welch Funeral Home at 201 W. Lampkin Street from 4 to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Burial will be at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Dec. 13, at the Oktibbeha Memorial Gardens Cemetery, followed by services at 11 a.m. at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection at 105 N. Montgomery St. in Starkville.
A luncheon reception will follow in the Parish Hall (adjacent to the church) at the conclusion of the service.
In lieu of flowers the family requests that memorials be made to the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection in Starkville, St. Vincent’s House in Galveston, Texas or Houston Hospice in Houston, Texas.
Condolences may be expressed to the family online by visiting the website at

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