WATERTOWN, NY — Chester Francis Gray, Naples, Florida, passed away peacefully at home on his 97th birthday, June 12, 2020, with his wife of 51 years, Nancy, by his side.
Born June 12, 1923, in Corning, NY, he was the son of Roland Corydon Gray and Eleanor Singer. As part of the Greatest Generation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.
After graduating from Ithaca College on the G.I. Bill, he pursued a career in education, primarily in the Wappingers Falls Central School District. He was a teacher as well as an elementary, junior high and high school principal and completed his career in central administration. Chet was active in the community, serving as president of the Kiwanis Club of Wappingers Falls and lieutenant governor of the Kiwanis Hudson River Division.
Upon his retirement from education, Chet and Nancy moved to Watertown and purchased the Watertown Tennis Club in 1979. Together they built a limited use club into a full range athletic club. The Watertown Health and Racquet Club served as a resource for many community activities and fundraising events.
The love of Chet’s life was the St. Lawrence River and Thousand Island Park. His great-great grandfather, Chester Elijah Francis, the President of the Carthage National Bank, was a founder of Thousand Island Park in 1875. Chester Francis and his wife, Hannah Horr, were the family’s link to the history of eight generations on the Park. In his younger years, Chet worked in the summer at the Wellesley Island State Park building camping cabins. He later served as director, treasurer and president of the Thousand Island Park Corporation.
Chet is survived by his wife Nancy; a son, Dr. Daniel S. Gray (Dr. Maja Lundborg) and grandsons, Spencer and Maxwell; a daughter, Deborah Gray Bilotti (Robert) and granddaughter Nina; son Michael Gray (Kathy); a son, David Gray (Diane) and granddaughter Dawn and grandson Andrew; a daughter, Patricia Gray Hines (Jack) and grandsons John and Patrick; a son, William Gray and grandson Justin and granddaughter Tara; a sister Jane Gray Feltus; four great-grandchildren and nieces and nephews.
A brother, Robert Gray, died before him.
A family gathering will be held at the River at a future date.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Northern New York Community Foundation, 131 Washington St., Watertown, NY 13601 to establish the Chester F. Gray Scholarship to perpetuate his lifelong devotion to education and helping others.