Dr. Joseph L. Gray III


Dr. Joseph L. Gray III passed away peacefully on April 29th, 2024, surrounded by his family.

Joe was born on July 31, 1929, at Virginia Baptist Hospital in Lynchburg, VA. The oldest son of the late Joseph L. and Garnett (nee Henderson) Gray Jr. of Lynchburg, he was a grandson of Robert and Laura Henderson (Roseland, VA) and Joseph L. and Agnes Gray (Shipman, VA). He is survived by his two sons, Jason (Kelley), Westlake, OH, and Jonathan, Lakewood, OH.

Joe is also survived by brother Stedman Gray (Tish), Lynchburg; brother-in-law Arthur Ruda (Lorie), Novato, CA.; niece Betsy Gray Flowers (Mike); and three nephews, Marshall S. Gray (Christie), Paul Holland and Chadwick Gray (Chris). He will be missed by his cousins and extended family. His wife, Pamela (nee Ruda) Gray, predeceased him, as did his in-laws, Mitchell and Leah (nee Weinert) Ruda, Chicago, IL.

Joe adored and was inspired by his grandchildren, Caroline Garnett Gray (Cleveland), Joseph Donald Gray (Cleveland), and Lauren Grace Gray (Westlake). He doted on them, and they on him. He loved his daughter-in-law, Kelley. The depth of his respect, appreciation, and love for her, and her support as he aged into his ninth decade, was immense.

Joe graduated in 1946 from E.C. Glass High School (Lynchburg) at 17 and entered the U.S. Air Force. He served from 1946-1949, including a two-year tour in Guam with the 118th Communications Squadron, achieving the rank of Sergeant. Upon his return, Joe studied at Washington and Lee University, graduating with an A.B. in 1953. As an undergraduate, he was vice president of the Graham-Lee Literary Society, speaker of the Forensic Union, president of the International Relations Club, and a leader within many other campus organizations. Joe earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, participating as a graduate student with faculty and staff in founding the International House.

A Fulbright Scholar, Joe was also a Goethe-Universität Fellow. He studied at the University of Munich from 1953-1955 and the University of Tubingen from 1964-1965. While in Germany, he spent the summer of 1953 volunteering in the town of Bielefeld, working alongside other volunteers to build houses in support of East German refugees. In 1954, he volunteered at a work camp for a land reclamation project on the island of Norderney in the North Sea. In 1957, he served as a director at the Experiment for International Living at Middlebury College as a summer leader.

Joe taught at the University of Illinois from 1960-1964 and part-time at DePaul University. He also taught English at the original Navy Pier in Chicago and was an instructor of language and literature at Dubuque University in Iowa. He was an Assistant Professor in the Department of German at The Ohio State University from 1965-1970.

In 1970, Joe joined the Department of German and Russian at Bowling Green State University (BGSU) and served for decades as Department Chair. During his tenure, the department expanded language offerings and became known as the Department of German, Russian and East Asian Languages. In 1978-1979, Joe served as Director for the AYA Study Abroad Program in Salzburg, Austria. Throughout his career, he was active in university life and professional organizations and built lasting relationships with his students and colleagues. Joe retired from BGSU in 2003. Teaching brought him professional satisfaction and tremendous joy. His memories of students lasted throughout his life. Many stayed in touch and recently reconnected with him in person or by phone.

The family that Joe grew up in survived the Great Depression and worked for everything they had. He was thankful for the GI Bill and the education it afforded him. He lived simply and always put the needs of others before his own. A Southern gentleman, Joe approached life with an infectiously cheerful disposition, immense intellectual curiosity and compassion for all. He liked a good joke, savored his drugstore pipes and tobacco, compiled extensive family genealogical records and occasionally enjoyed a well-made cocktail. A tennis aficionado, he gladly woke at any hour to catch a live Grand Slam event.

Living in Ohio, Joe was always incredibly grateful for the care and love extended to his beloved mother in Lynchburg, especially during her final years, by his brother Sted and sister-in-law Tish. Caring for his wife, Pamela, who had MS, made it difficult to get back home to Virginia very often. He loved his parents, missed them a great deal, and regretted not taking more time to learn life lessons and craftmanship skills from his industrious and nature-loving father.

At the decedent’s request, his remains will be cremated. The family will receive friends at Dunn’s Funeral Home, Bowling Green, OH, on Saturday, May 11, from 1-3pm. A memorial service will be held this summer in Lynchburg, followed by interment at Fort Hill Cemetery.

Joe’s family is thankful for the wonderful medical care extended to him by Northwestern University Hospital (Chicago), the Medical College of Ohio (Toledo), and Dr. Brian Griffin and the physicians and staff of The Cleveland Clinic. Additionally, his family will be ever grateful to his many caregivers, including Joe, Deb, Suzanne, Samira and others.

Expressions of sympathy may be made to the Department of World Languages at BGSU (Joseph L. Gray German Scholarship) or a charity of your choice.

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