George Pray, artist who returned to school at age 84, dies at 103

January 08, 1994|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Staff Writer

Centenarian George Pray, a retired artist who lived alone until he was 99, drove until he was 95 and always voted the Republican ticket, died Dec. 31 of pneumonia at the Meridian Nursing Center-Severna Park.

The longtime Catonsville resident, who moved to the center in 1992, was 103.

Born in Binghamton, N.Y., Mr. Pray moved to Baltimore as a child and attended city schools. He graduated from City College in 1908 and from the Maryland Institute in 1913.

A technical illustrator, he worked at about 20 jobs before he joined the Bendix Corp. in 1941. He retired in 1956.

He enjoyed retirement with his wife, the former Margaret Hoffman of Catonsville, until her death in 1972, when he decided that sitting around wasn't for him.

As secretary of the City College Class of 1908, he kept track of classmates and found that more and more of them failed to respond to his pleas for news.

"I found they were taking retirement literally, just sitting around and falling apart from inactivity. I made up my mind that wouldn't happen to me, that I was going to get out and get active," he said in a 1984 interview in The Sun.

At 84, he enrolled in Catonsville Community College, where he made the dean's list, earning a 3.52 grade-point average while studying art, history and nutrition. He wrote a column, "Grandpa Remembers," for the Red and Black, the college newspaper; attended school dances and complained about the loud rock music; and was one of the college's most popular students.

"He complained that I sent him off to college wearing gray flannels and a corduroy jacket that made him stand out like a sore thumb. All the other students were wearing blue jeans," said his daughter, Margaret Brinkmann of Catonsville.

"So we got him a pair of blue jeans, and when he opened up the box, he shouted, 'Yea!' " she said, laughing.

"He once told the history professor that he may be teaching history, but he had lived it," she said.

Mr. Pray was awarded an honorary degree from the college in 1977 and used his calligraphy talents to decorate the school's diplomas and other awards. He made and printed his own Christmas cards for more than 50 years.

He touted activities for senior citizens on local radio and television stations and talked about proper nutrition and staying mentally and physically fit.

He attributed his longevity to his lifelong health regime and to having no regrets.

His daughter said that he used to say, "I've never smoked a cigarette, never one, and I don't drink caffeinated beverages or stimulants of any kind."

A memorial service was set for 2 p.m. today at Catonsville Presbyterian Church, 1400 Frederick Road.

Other survivors include a granddaughter and a great-granddaughter.

Memorial donations may be made to Catonsville Presbyterian Church.

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