Donna Mae Gray, 83, a longtime Baker City resident, died Sept. 1, 2007, at her home.
Her funeral will be at 11 a.m. Friday at First Lutheran Church, 1734 Third St. Pastor Mel Harris will officiate. Interment will be at Mount Hope Cemetery. There will be a reception afterward at First Lutheran Church.
Visitations will be Thursday from noon to 8 p.m. at Gray’s West & Co. Pioneer Chapel, 1500 Dewey Ave.
Donna was born on Nov. 21, 1923, at Coulee City, Wash., to Mae and Donovan Green. She moved to Spokane and graduated from North Central High School where she was a tennis champion. She always loved her tennis and football.
Donna entered nurses training at St. Luke’s in Spokane, Wash., in the fall of 1943 after many little jobs, one of which was picking rotten potato chips from a conveyor belt. She never really liked potato chips after that.
She met Gordon Gray, a cute sailor boy, at a dance in 1944 before he shipped out for the South Pacific.
They were married on Dec. 3, 1945, at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. She then had to sneak back to the nurses training barracks and pretend she was not married.
Soon after marrying, Donna and Gordon came to Baker City to meet his parents, Leon and Courtney Gray. The story goes that Courtney faked a heart attack — the first of many ups and downs between Donna and her mother-in-law.
Back in Spokane, Donna graduated as a nurse in the spring of 1946.
Her nursing days are full of stories. She once worked the night shift in a psych ward and said it was very much like the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” One night, some of the patients managed to get out of their straightjackets, got Donna down and proceeded to pull out her hair. She was tough — tougher than she looked — and managed to get out and get some help.
In 1946, Donna and Gordon moved to Corvallis so Gordon could complete college. Donna worked as a nurse in a clinic and put him through college — a lofty goal because it turned out that Gordon was not college material. Donna had to take a lot of the tests for him and decided college was not working.
They returned to Baker City and began a Hotpoint Appliance store in 1947. They ran the store until 1954, when Gordon decided to become an apprentice funeral director at West & Co.
During that time, in January of 1950, they had a daughter, Janis Mae.
With Gordon pursuing a new career, Donna went to work in the office of Drs. Pollock and Ward. There she met her dear friends Dorothy Durgan and Helen Kingman.
In 1959, the family went to Long Beach, Calif., where Gordon went to funeral director and embalming school.
After returning to Baker City, Gordon worked at West & Co. and the family moved to the apartment at the funeral home, where they lived for about three years. During that time, Donna worked as a surgical nurse at St. Elizabeth Hospital where she became good friends with Jo Snook, Shirley Spence and Marian Hasher.
The next short adventure, when Jan was in eighth grade, was moving to Portland where they bought Cascade Funeral Home. Two years later, they got the opportunity to return to Baker City to buy into the West & Co. corporation. In the fall of 1968, Donna and Gordon bought West & Co. and renamed it Gray’s West & Co. Pioneer Chapel.
Donna continued working for the hospital as a surgical nurse. She quit nursing in the early 1970s and helped Gordon full time, eventually becoming a licensed funeral director.
Gordon suffered a massive heart attack in 1979, and they later sold Gray’s West and traveled.
Gordon died in 1988, and after that Donna became a teaching assistant for her daughter in North Powder. She even taught a high school Spanish class. Donna’s granddaughter, Marji, had both her mom and grandma as teachers.
Donna was wonderful with the school children, and even started the first breakfast program because she always brought something for the children who had not eaten breakfast.
During her whole life, Donna was always caring and giving in everything she did.
She took leaves of absence from her work at the school to go on many trips with her dear friend, Fern Galligan. They had many adventures, such as getting shot at in Israel at the Wailing Wall. Donna also took her daughter and granddaughter on trips, including travels to Boston, New York and London.
Donna was active in her community, and was a member of P.E.O., Chapter AX, and a life member of Soroptimist International. She served on the boards of First Lutheran Church, the Republican Central Committee, and the Eastern Oregon Chapter of the American Red Cross (she organized blood drives and helped in the reorganizing of the Red Cross). She also played in many, many bridge clubs.
Donna was preceded in death by her parents; her brother, Wallace Green ; and her husband, Gordon.
Survivors include her daughter, Janis Mae Gray Hill, and her husband, Elmer, of North Powder; her granddaughter, Marji Mae Lind, and her husband, Ryan, of Vale; two great-grandsons, Hunter Neal Lind and Cade Hill Lind and one great-granddaughter, Marli Mae Lind, all of Vale; and many longtime friends, including Marge Carlson, Mary Basche, Anne Kirkpatrick and Cheryl Fisher.
Memorial contributions may be made to the P.E.O educational scholarship, First Lutheran Church, the Eastern Oregon Chapter of the American Red Cross or the charity of one’s choice through Gray’s West & Co., 1500 Dewey Ave., Baker City, OR 97814.
Used with permission from: Baker City Herald, Baker City, Oregon, September 5, 2007
Transcribed by: Belva Ticknor