Gerard E. Gray Jr., 55, coach, teacher at Bel Air high school

November 18, 1995|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Gerard E. Gray Jr., a teacher and coach whose last lesson to his students was about courage and determination, died Tuesday of bone cancer at Stella Maris Hospice.

Mr. Gray, who was 55 and lived in Bel Air, taught and coached for 30 years at John Carroll High School in Bel Air.

A history teacher, he was also head football coach of the John Carroll Patriots from 1964 to 1978 and 1991 to 1994, and compiled football record of 69-35-3 before retiring from coaching in 1994.

He won the C Conference Championship in 1968 and 1969, and coached girls' track and cross country from 1981 to 1990 and boys' track from 1980 to 1984.

Mr. Gray had spinal surgery last year at Johns Hopkins Hospital that was brought on by cancer. He taught until last month.

"He had an incredible determination and didn't believe his illness would be fatal," said his wife of 30 years, the former Carol Ann Drover, who met her future husband while he was a student at Notre Dame University.

It wasn't the first time that Mr. Gray, born and raised in Northwood, faced physical adversity.

As an incoming freshman at Calvert Hall College, he was recovering from a broken right arm. In order not to miss any classes, he taught himself how to write with his left hand. Because his hand hadn't healed, he applied the same principle the next spring when he tried out for baseball as a left-handed outfielder.

After graduation from Calvert Hall in 1958, Mr. Gray entered the University of Notre Dame where he earned varsity letters in 1959-1961 and 1962 playing football for the late coach Joe Kuharich.

"His father talked to him in his crib about going to Notre Dame," said Mrs. Gray with a laugh.

He missed a year of school after a disk operation and worked as a copy boy in the sports department of the News American while recuperating and studying at night at McCoy College.

Returning to Notre Dame, it was assumed that his playing career was finished. Without the coach's invitation, he showed up and tried out for the team the next fall.

"I thought it was the ghost of Gerry Gray. We never thought he could play. He not only made the squad but played for us," Mr. Kuharich once said.

His performance in a game against the University of Southern California in 1959, where he scored two touchdowns, gaining 75 yards on 13 carries and piled up 14 of his team's 16 points, earned him "back of the week" honors from the Associated Press.

After graduating from Notre Dame, he was nominated for a Rhodes Scholarship and in 1965 earned a master's in education from Johns Hopkins University.

"Not many football players have the opportunity of being nominated for a Rhodes Scholarship," said John Steadman, former News American sports editor who now is a Sun sports columnist.

Said Ed Miller, teacher at John Carroll High School, "I admired him most of all for his simplicity and humility. He downplayed himself and played up others. He had a genuine love for both his students and teachers."

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today for Mr. Gray at St. Margaret Roman Catholic Church, Hickory Ave., Bel Air, where he was a communicant of many years.

Other survivors include two sons, Daniel W. Gray of Bel Air, Shane M. Gray, a student at Gettysburg College; a daughter, Carlyn M. Gray, a student at Notre Dame University; his parents, Gerard E. Gray Sr. and Mildred Gray of Northwood; and four nephews and four nieces.

Memorial donations may be made to John Carroll School, 703 Churchville Road, Bel Air 21014.

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