Clifford William Gray, age 80, of Springfield, formerly of Monett, passed away the morning of Thursday, Feb. 4, after courageously battling a sudden and aggressive cancer.
Cliff was born on March 28, 1929, in Laredo, Texas, to John Asbury and Gertrude Fassnidge Gray. During his youth, he participated in many sports, though football was his passion.
During his senior year in high school, he was a proud member of Laredo's Martin High School football legend known as the "Eleven Iron Men." Although the team was comprised of 26 players, only 11 usually played, running both defense and offense and playing each game nearly in its entirety. His high school football career earned him a full scholarship to East Texas State in Commerce, Texas.
After graduating from college, Cliff went into the Navy and served at Quonset Point, Rhode Island. Still playing football, he was the Navy team's offensive and defensive halfback, helping his team win first in competition with the Eastern Naval Division. Some of his Navy duties included installing armaments on and guarding the F9F Panther jets used in the Korean War. He also assisted the Methodist base chaplain with setting up Sunday services. He was honorably discharged in July, 1954.
Several years after his Navy days, Cliff married Virginia Akin, of McAllen, Texas. For most of their married life, they lived in McAllen, where they raised their family and were active members of the First Presbyterian Church. Cliff worked in the freight industry until his retirement in 1994 when he and Virginia moved to Monett.
Survived by his wife of 48 years, Virginia, of Springfield; his daughters: Deborah (William) Turberville, of Ruidoso, N.M. and Cindy (John) Compton of New Canaan, Conn.; his son: Stephen Gray, of Stafford, Texas; his granddaughters: Deirdre (Steve) Patterson, Ashley (Luke) Hickey, Danika Gray, Daisha Gray, Kendall Compton, and Caroline Compton; and his grandson: Jack Compton.
A service honoring Cliff , under the care of Walnut Lawn Funeral Home, of Springfield, will be held at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 9, at Wesley United Methodist Church, 922 West Republic Road, in Springfield. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, www.stjude.org, or the charity of your choice.