ATHOL – Sylvia A. (Ward) Gray, age 88, of Athol died Thursday, March 17, 2016 at East Village Place in East Longmeadow, MA. Sylvia was born February 24, 1928 in Orange. She is the daughter of the late Eddie L. and the late Dorothy (Gleason) Ward.
Sylvia grew up in Orange graduating from Orange High School in 1945 and moved to Athol following her marriage to Robert L. Gray on May 18, 1947. From the early 1950’s Sylvia resided on Bearsden Road in Athol and in 1976 moved to Sportsman’s Pond. Following the death of her husband in 2009 she moved to E. Longmeadow to be closer to her daughter.
She was employed as a bookkeeper at the A & P during the late 1940’s, and following that worked at the Athol Savings Bank. For many years she was a stay-at-home Mom raising her family and providing day care for a friend. On election days, Sylvia enjoyed working at the polls, checking people in, socializing with town residents and counting the votes. She was a member of the Athol Women’s Club, and for 60 years a member of the Athol Congregational Church.
Sylvia loved to bake, and was always ready with her delicious baked goods when friends and relatives would visit. She enjoyed painting with oils and in later years with water colors. In their retirement years she and her husband Bob traveled across country in their RV, exploring the USA. They would often make Branson, Missouri one of their stops where Sylvia would attend a painting course while Bob attended a woodcarving seminar. Sylvia was a devoted mother and grandmother whom her grandchildren lovingly referred to as Nana. She had an infectious laugh and the natural ability to offer comfort when it was needed. Her children and grandchildren are her greatest legacy and she was extremely proud of all of them.
She is survived by one son Robert Gray Jr. and his wife Shari of Crystal Lake, IL; one daughter Barbara Nault and her husband Andre of E. Longmeadow, MA; one son-in-law, Doug Rindone of Orlando, FL; one sister Deanna Yeransian of Weston, MA; and two brothers Dr. Gene Ward of Los Angeles, CA; Atty. Robert Leslie Ward of Centerville, MA. She is also survived by seven grandchildren; Jessica (Kevin) Yates of Apopka, FL, Vanessa (Mark) Monn of Mt Dora, FL; Emily (Scott) Claussen of Marblehead, MA; Robert Gray of Crystal Lake, IL; Kathleen Gray of Chicago, IL; Marc Nault and Danielle Nault of East Longmeadow, MA and three great-grandchildren.
Sylvia was predeceased by her loving husband of 62 years, Robert L. Gray; daughter, Cynthia Rindone and brothers Eddie and Stanton Ward.
Her family would like to thank East Village Place, Capuano Care and Baystate Hospice for their compassionate care of Sylvia.
The funeral will be held at 11:00 am on Saturday, March 26 at Higgin’s O’Connor Funeral Home, 146 Main St., Athol, with Rev. Beverly Prestwood Taylor officiating. Burial will follow in Silver Lake Cemetery, Athol.
A calling hour will precede the service from 10 – 11 a.m. in the funeral home.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that memorial contributions to be made in her memory to the Alzheimer’s Association at www.alz.org/donate.
My Dad was a very talented and kind man, no doubt, as those of you that knew him can attest to. And those of you that didn’t have that opportunity must certainly know this by now, if you knew any one of his family or anyone at all that who knew him.
There were very few quick conversations with him… it wasn’t the gift of gab, but rather an artful eloquence together with such an interest in people – in bringing out your absolute best – that was so inspiring. You would walk away after every chat with Dad with such confidence, optimism, enthusiasm.
You can imagine the impact that has on a young adolescent girl – and a grown woman as well.
It has been a very difficult few years as his ability to communicate was stolen from the disease. But I have been thankful every day that I had every last minute with him, as Alzheimer’s couldn’t steel his smile, his sweet, gentle, loving and playful smile – his trademark.
I’d like to share a poem that Dad gave me on my graduation…
Frightening yet alluring too,
Beckoning you with crooked finger,
Faceless does it threaten to,
The past has touched with tragic moments,
Yet only great feelings lead to strong rewards.
So look ahead with hope an love,
Endure the tough, the disheartening,
For in the quest there is satisfaction,
In the accomplishment, exultation.
Live all, see all, feel all, experience everything,
For therein one finds truth and self.
Read by Dusty’s daughter Joanna Sherblom at Dusty’s Memorial Service
I’m sure that most of the people in this room here today know what a SOLID example of man my grandfather was, and hold in their heart what he meant to each and every one of us. I know that I’m very lucky to have had such great memories that are a reminder of what he meant to me, and likely everyone else here. As one of his many grandchildren in the big family that he helped produce, I’m sure that our “Grampy”, as we knew him, left an imprint on all of us of his great character. Whether you wanted it or not, he was always there to set an example; to teach you a lesson that he learned earlier in life…….
Modesty.. morality.. wisdom.. teaching.. sacrifice… …OK maybe COLOR-BLINDNESS is the only thing that rubbed off on me… But there were so many things about him that truly affected my life and, I’m sure, so many others. Grampy really brought warmth and tenderness to all of us. The overwhelming joy that I witnessed in him upon holding his first great-grandchild, my daughter Alaina, seemed to bring tears to both of our eyes. He is EXACTLY the grandfather that any person should have. From when I was a little kid working at the local candy store, he showed such an interest in my job and prospects, providing that feeling that I was always doing something meaningful, and forever building my work-ethic. I never saw him lose his cool; He had that way about him.
Probably 16 years old, and at the height of my rebellion, I’d be asked by Grampy respectfully for my “help” to teach him how to use his computer and projector so he could give his presentations more effectively. Of course, Grampy was the only person on the entire planet at the time that I respected too much to let see how much of a punk I’d become… As I’d happily oblige, he’d let me “teach” him, while surreptitiously dropping his knowledge and advice upon me, in a time of obvious need. He even let me drive Grammy’s car out on the “turnpike” with my permit, although I think I may have been a better driver than him at the time.
I’ll always remember him carrying me on his back, literally, to the “rock” at Laurel Lake, and how it made me feel like I was the only kid on the earth that was worth a damn. I’ll always remember him taking me and my later-to-be wife to the Harvard Club and lending me his suit jacket… that I was swimming in throughout dinner. I’ll always remember bowling and watching him golf at DCPC… while he tried like heck to get me into that boring sport. I’ll always remember getting my first original Nintendo from him, but not because of what it was, but who it was coming from. Most of all, it is not just the specific times I’ll remember, but the overall great example he set for me.
Read at Dusty’s memorial service by his eldest grandson, Benjamin Sherblom
Dusty’s sister Jody, (pictured seated next to her brother in purple at his 88th birthday party) chose to read Whitman’s poem in honor of Dusty at his memorial service. Jody shared that she and Dusty used to take turns reading O Captain! My Captain! aloud to each other in high school.
Source: Leaves of Grass (David McKay, 1891)