Skip to main content

In Memoriam

Lois Howard Gray: 1920 - 2012

(The following obituary was written by Lois’ grandchildren. Each chose one word to describe Lois – they are shown below in bold text).

Lois Howard Gray Obituary

Lois Howard Gray died at her Lexington, Ky. home March 19, 2012 at the age of 91. With her late husband, James Norris Gray, she was co-founder of Gray Construction. She continued as company chairperson after her husband’s death in 1972.

Lois Franklin Howard was born September 20, 1920 in Glasgow, Ky. to the late Julia Franklin Howard and Dr. Carl Clifford Howard. Dr. Howard was a renowned Kentucky physician who founded the Commonwealth’s tuberculosis hospital system and the Rural Kentucky Medical Scholarship Fund. Julia Franklin Howard was a school teacher. The Howard’s commitment to their four daughters was a trait Lois generously and compassionately carried on to her own family. In every aspect of her life, Lois instilled in them a sense of leadership.

Lois’s epic journey in service began at Transylvania University, where she graduated in 1940 after a stint as “Miss Transylvania.” To her family and friends, Lois’s stories of Transylvania were influential, and her words about education inspired a lifelong love of learning. Notably, in 1997, she was presented the Morrison Medallion, one of Transylvania University’s highest honors. She also earned a Masters of Arts degree in Art Education from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. Lois believed that education was also an independent experience; beyond the classroom, she was an accomplished and visionary watercolor artist whose favorite subjects were the Barren County, Ky. countryside and coastal Maine.

During World War II, Lois radiated loyalty and perseverance as she enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a WAVES officer (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). She served as a stoic and trustworthy lieutenant (j.g.) from 1943 to 1946. After the war, Lois returned to Glasgow, Ky. where she married James Norris Gray; in addition to starting a family, she founded her own interior design business and pursued her passion for classic design. Lois remained active in professional associations throughout her career, including the Kentucky Women’s Leadership Network Board of Directors and the Glasgow-Barren County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

Lois was deeply involved with Kentucky’s education and arts organizations, serving on a number of prominent boards, including Transylvania University, Kentucky Educational Foundation, the Governors’ Scholars program and as a member of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. She was a founding member of the Horse Cave Theatre, a member of the Kentucky Arts Council, and served as state chairperson for the Kentucky Center for the Arts grand opening in 1983.

Primarily, Lois focused her witty and charming love on her children and grandchildren: a glimpse at a personal notebook that Lois kept in her final years saw reminders of phone calls, notes, and gifts to her family. Her grandchildren admired “Loisie” with such enthusiasm that some deemed her the “graceful Gray-Family-goddess!

Lois is survived by her six children, Julia Gray Navolio (Jim), Howard Gray (Cassandra), Jim Gray, Franklin Gray (Vanessa Wells-Gray), Elisabeth Gray McKeachie (William McKeachie), and Stephen Gray (Lisa Gumm-Gray); 18 grandchildren; and 7 great-grandchildren. She is also survived by two sisters, Mary Lloyd Howard Lessenberry (Robert A.) Glasgow, Ky., and Dr. Carolyn Howard McKinley, Glasgow, Ky. She is preceded in death by her sister, Mildred Howard.

Special friends also surviving Lois include Letitia Armstrong and the staff with At Your Service, Charles “Butch” Wagner and Hospice of the Bluegrass.

Memorial contributions in Lois Howard Gray’s honor are suggested to Best Friends Center, 516 Maryland Avenue, Lexington, Ky., Transylvania University Department of Art, Lexington, Ky., or the First Christian Church, Glasgow, Ky.

A public reception for friends and family will be held on the lawn at Transylvania University behind Old Morrison on Wednesday, March 21, from 4-7pm. A reception for family and friends will be held at 11:30am Central time on March 23 at Glasgow First Christian Church, 1100 North Race Street. A 1:00 pm service (Central time) will follow the reception. The burial will take place at the Glasgow Municipal Cemetery.


    March 19, 2012

    Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.

    Get the Latest.