Giving From the Heart: Dr. M. Cecil Gray and Joan Gray
Eight years ago, Dr. M. Cecil Gray and his wife, Joan, moved from their home in Florida to the quiet, rural community of Arlington, located 20 minutes east of Memphis. Cecil, a retired veterinarian, had lived in Florida for 75 years, but after visiting Tennessee, he loved the idea of moving here and enjoying four seasons. For Joan, it was time to live closer to her family so they could spend more time with her sons, Rick and Michael Bowers, and grandchildren.
Cecil, now 83, and Joan, 81, married in 1995. Both were widowed and met at their church. Now that they are permanently settled in the Memphis area, the Grays have made a decision that will help thousands of children who live in the region receive the highest level of health care for years to come. They have designated a bequest through their estate plans to Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.
"Both of us are very concerned about children," says Cecil about naming Le Bonheur as a beneficiary in their will.
Their motivation in philanthropy is very personal. Many years ago, Joan's granddaughter, Drena Lynette Bowers, died at Le Bonheur during open heart surgery. She was only 9 months old.
"I have always had a special place in my heart for Le Bonheur," Joan says. "The care my granddaughter received was truly outstanding. Our family was very fortunate. The physicians and hospital staff were very compassionate during this difficult time."
Cecil, too, experienced a tremendous loss when he and his wife of 44 years lost an infant. They were living in Jacksonville, Fla. at the time.
"I've always been drawn to young ones and they've always been drawn to me," Cecil says. "We love children and wanted to do something for them. Our entire estate is going to charity," he says.
A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Cecil attended Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn), graduating in 1949 from veterinary school. At that time, it was one of only five vet schools in the country. After completing his degree, he returned to Florida and opened his own veterinary practice. He also served in World War II and Korea.
The couple lives in a modest home on eight acres across the street from her son, Rick. Joan loves to garden and feeds the birds. She sews for the infants in Le Bonheur's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and sings in the choir of Faith Baptist Church in Bartlett where Cecil serves as a Deacon.
Philanthropy has always been important to the Grays. When the University of Florida at Gainesville began a fundraising campaign to build a veterinary program there, Cecil was the first donor to make a contribution. While living in Florida, the Grays volunteered at the Jacksonville Baptist Children's Home. Additionally, they support the Florida Baptist Association and the Tennessee Baptist Children's Home located in Bartlett.
"We want our support of Le Bonheur to continue beyond our lives," Cecil said. "The new Le Bonheur hospital will not only impact the lives of young children, but also the adults of our region. The parents and grandparents will be the ones who really appreciate what the new hospital can offer to the children."
EDITOR'S NOTE: With great sadness we report that Joan Gray passed away on September 24, 2010.