Paul L. Bray

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Paul Leonard Bray, 91 years of age, passed away Thursday, Nov. 30, 2006, at Chateau Girardeau Health Center in the loving care of his daughter, the Chateau Girardeau staff, his devoted caregiver and his Southeast Hospice volunteer.

He died at home because Chateau Girardeau had been, as he called it, "Home Sweet Home" since March 1997 when he and his wife Mary Lou moved there.

Visitation will be Monday, Dec. 4, 2006, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Ford and Sons Mount Auburn Funeral Home.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2006, at First Presbyterian Church on the corner of Broadway and Lorimier in Cape Girardeau. Officiating will be the Rev. Paul Kabo of First Presbyterian Church in Cape and the Rev. Dr. Paul Currie of Caruthersville, Mo., retired Presbyterian minister and family friend. A private burial service will take place earlier at Cape County Memorial Park Mausoleum.

The son of Ora and Luther Bray, Paul was born June 5, 1915, at the family home in Fornfelt (now Scott City).

Paul is survived by his daughter, Nancy Bray of Cape Girardeau; a sister, Lois Bain of St. Louis; a brother and sister-in-law, Alton and Martha Bray of Cape Girardeau; many loving nieces, nephews, great-nieces and nephews; his caregiver, Cathy Foutch; the Howard's Athletic Goods employees past and present; the Howard family; as well as by countless friends of all ages.

Paul was preceded in death by his beloved wife Mary Lou; his parents; brothers, Riley Bray and Bill Bray; and infant sister,Virginia Lee.

He grew up in Fornfelt and was salutatorian of the Fornfelt High School class of 1933. He attended Southeast Missouri State University briefly following high school. From 1934 to 1942 he was cashier and banker at the Bank of Fornfelt.

In 1938, on a blind date, he met Mary Lou Wood from Cape who was teaching school at the time in Illmo. After a four-year courtship, Paul and Mary Lou were married June 27, 1942, in Santa Ana, Calif., at the chaplain's home on the air base where Paul was stationed with the Army Air Corps as a celestial navigation instructor.

For the 59 years of their married life, Paul and Mary Lou were devoted partners and best friends. During her illness in 2001, no husband could have been a more attentive and loving caregiver.

Growing up in Fornfelt, Paul spent many hours and years playing baseball with the other Bray brothers. Then from 1933 to 1946, he pitched for the Illmo Fornfelt Big Bucks, Belleville Stags, Farmington Blues, Cape Capahas and the Cape Jaycees. Paul had a following of fans from Farmington to the bootheel and a winning pitching record every year from 1933 to 1940. His ability and success as a pitcher earned him the nickname "Little Poison" and merited regional recognition and even the attention of semi-pro scouts.

Paul's record-setting career in baseball was recognized May 18, 1980, when he was inducted into the Illmo-Scott City Athletic Hall of Fame and then again Dec. 2, 1989, when he was inducted into the Southeast Missouri Amateur Baseball Hall of Fame. He was also recognized for being instrumental in forming the Little League and Babe Ruth League in Cape and being in charge of umpiring for both leagues.

Following his discharge from the service, Paul joined Mary Lou in Cape Girardeau where she had returned to give birth to and raise their daughter, Nancy. For a brief time he sold insurance for Mr. E.P. Masters with State Farm.

In 1946 he was hired by Mr. B.I. Howard to assist with the business operations of what was then Howard-Swan Sporting Goods Store. A natural career fit for someone with Paul's love and knowledge of all sports, Paul remained with Howard's as manager until his retirement in June 1980. He treasured his time and close ties with all of the Howard family, the Howard's employees and his customers, many of whom became lifelong friends.

During his retirement, a love of golf and natural ability for the game replaced his baseball playing, and he helped the Jaycee Golf Course of today become a reality, served many years on the city advisory board for that course, and played every weekday at noon until he was 88.

Also early in his retirement, Paul and Mary Lou began their affiliation with Southeast Missouri Hospital as volunteers and life members of the Southeast Missouri Hospital Auxiliary. They were lobby desk volunteers, and Paul's favorite duty for that area was delivering flowers to patient rooms so he could visit with folks who might need some cheering up.

As a team, Paul and Mary Lou also became actively involved with the auxiliary's Meals on Wheels program, and from 1984 to 1990, Paul helped assemble the meal trays and dispatched them to the drivers with the churches and organizations who delivered the meals. He made many new friends among these drivers and enjoyed his affiliation with them as well as with the Southeast Food Service and Home Health employees involved with Meals on Wheels.

Paul was elected to the Southeast Missouri Hospital Board of Trustees in 1988 and faithfully served on the active board almost 16 years until honorary trustee status was granted in 2004.

In the community, Paul was a member of Rotary and helped start the second club in Cape. Though raised Baptist, he became an active and devoted member of First Presbyterian Church, his wife Mary Lou's church. His record of membership dates to April 21, 1946. He served many years as a deacon and elder, as clerk of the Session, as church treasurer, as a Sunday school teacher, and even as coach for the Boys Youth Basketball League team that the church sponsored. He faithfully attended worship service every Sunday until this past year when his health became such that he could not attend. Though he had an excellent voice, he would never join the choir because he could not read a note of music; but no one could have enjoyed the music more or have sung with more enthusiasm and love of God than Paul Bray.

To know Paul was to know a man of God whose faith never wavered and who lived his faith through his love and concern for others. To be in the presence of Paul was to know a man who enjoyed life and was full of life and the joy of life. His cheerful voice and hearty laughter, his twinkling eyes and ever-present smile, will be missed by all who were blessed to know him. Paul was one of the "good guys" with a good heart and generous spirit of service and love for others. Well done, good and faithful servant!

Memorial contributions may be made to First Presbyterian Church, Southeast Hospice, Meals on Wheels through the Southeast Missouri Hospital Foundation, the Chateau Girardeau Foundation or the charity of your choice.