Dick Cray 85, of Mission Hills, Kansas- a beloved husband, devoted father, wonderful Granddad and Great Granddad passed away peacefully in his home Tuesday afternoon.
Dad held many roles for many people. He was a prominent businessman, philanthropist, volunteer, friend, mentor, athlete, little league coach, even scoutmaster. His abilities in many areas led to a successful career in the spirits industry as well as a wide range of philanthropic and community services.
Dad is survived by his wife of thirty-six years, Laura Shutz Cray; two sons, Thomas (Ellen) and Cloud (Sonny) (Kimm); his daughter, Patricia Mach(Scott); his daughter-in-law Mary, stepson Byron and stepdaughter Susanne; along with his grandchildren & great grandchildren: Kathryn Corrigan (Bryan & sons Charlie, Baxter & William); R.B. III (Ashley & newborn son Richard B. Cray IV), Elizabeth Weber (Michael), Emily, Michael, Will, Brett, Cooper, Carolina, Lauren, Cloud, Colton, Kristen, Jenna; his brother Cloud L. (Bud) Cray; his sister Patricia Page (George) and many nieces and nephews. Preceding Dad in death was our mother, Gloria Potvin Cray, our brother, Dick Jr. and Dad's sister, Barbara Jeffries.
Our family is sincerely grateful for the outpouring of sympathy. We want to thank Dad's wonderful caregivers and all those who helped with his medical needs. Friends may visit with the family at Mount Moriah & Freeman Funeral Home, 10507 Holmes, Kansas City, MO (435 & Holmes), Friday, July 26th, 5:00-8:00 PM. Private burial will be Saturday morning, July 27th, a memorial service will be held Saturday afternoon at 1:00 PM at Country Club Christian Church, 6101 Ward Parkway, Kansas City, MO. In lieu of flowers, friends may send donations to Kansas City Community Gardens, Children's Mercy Hospital or the Republican National Committee in Dad's memory.
Richard Baxter (Dick) Cray was born October 13, 1927 to Cloud L. & Edna Mae Cray. He spent the early years of his life in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. From a young age, Dad was a remarkable student- he began first grade at just 4 years old. He was a champion speller as a ten-year-old, winning his school and district spelling competitions to compete in the Michigan state championship. At sixteen he graduated from Staunton Military Academy in Virginia.
Dad learned to ride horses from his father. He became an accomplished equestrian as a teenager, competing and winning several jumper championships on his beloved mount, "Lady Luck." Dad won the National Jumper Stakes twice and rode in the American Royal and Madison Square Garden.
Dad attended the University of Kansas where he was a member of the Dean's Honor Roll, varsity tennis, and Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. In 1949 he earned a marketing and finance degree graduating in three years.
Dad began his business career selling Chevys in Detroit where he met Gloria (Bunny) Potvin. They were dating when Dad got a call from his father offering a job that would require more work, more time, less pay and a move to Kansas. Soon Dad joined his older brother Bud working for their father in Atchison, KS at Midwest Solvents Co. (Now MGP Ingredients). Dad married our mother June 21, 1952, and the couple moved to New Jersey for his service with the US Army Signal Corps in 1954-55 where sons Dick, Jr. and Tom were born.
After his service to our country, the family moved to Sugar Lake, MO and Dad resumed work at Midwest. Sister Patty came along in 1958, and the family later moved to Weston, MO where our youngest brother Sonny arrived in 1961.
In the late 50s, the Atchison plant needed warehouse space and bought a defunct distillery in Weston, MO. After using the Weston property a few years just for storage, Dad convinced his father and brother he could make it all work again and in doing so began the process of resurrecting the old McCormick distillery. McCormick became Dad's life work- starting it back up and growing the company over many decades-- making and selling spirits mostly in the Midwest. Once he took a big chance and made a deal with Col. Tom Parker (Elvis Presley's manager). Dad put his bourbon in a ceramic Elvis bottle and introduced McCormick whiskey to the entire nation with tremendous success. This opened up many new markets for McCormick products. A ceramic bottle Patriot series for the1976 Bicentennial was another highlight. Dad was also involved in many liquor wholesale houses around Missouri and was among the first to import fine wines into the Midwest from Europe and California.
In 1976 Dad married Laura Shutz Slough. After first living in Weston, they eventually moved to Kansas City. Laura and Dad enjoyed many of the same interests- summering in their Vermont home, playing tennis, and cheering on their Jayhawks together were among their favorites.
Dad had always been involved in community service. In Weston he served many roles- Scoutmaster, little league coach, raising money for local charities- whatever was needed in our small town. After leaving the liquor business and moving to KC, with Laura's encouragement Dad focused on philanthropy. As the lead trustee of the family foundation, Dad became involved in many worthy causes and brought a methodology to his giving. Among his priorities were financial literacy, self help programs for the underprivileged, and even subsidizing new lawmaking in former communist countries which allowed peasants to own and cultivate their own land for the first time. He was among the first and significant backers of this very successful program that even found success in Russia, helping to bring capitalism to the USSR. He also gave his time--everything from tutoring disadvantaged students to chairing the Salvation Army Christmas bell ringers. KC Hospice, KC Community Gardens, there are too many good and wonderful causes to name to which Dad offered time, expertise and giving. For their tireless efforts and generosity to many charities, Dad and Laura were named Kansas City Philanthropists of the Year in 2003.
Dad was also a member of many boards including Midwest Research Institute, UMKC, Kansas University Endowment Association, KU Business School Advisory Council, Boy Scouts Heart of America Council, Rural Development Institute, Powell Gardens, KC Community Gardens, the Kansas City Country Club, as well as the boards of several banks.
Dad regularly attended and was a deacon at the Country Club Christian church. He was in a bible study group with dear friends for over 30 years. He enjoyed seminars and trips with the Young Presidents Organization. He loved playing tennis first at Rockhill CC, then KCCC. Always the competitor, Dad played on the Big 7 conference championship team while at KU and in 1984 won the father/son division of the KC Open with son Tom.
Dad accepted aging with dignity and always had a great sense of humor. He was fond of saying to his grandchildren: "When I was your age, I was much older." Dad set an example by which those of us who knew and loved him might aspire to live. He is among the few who truly has helped many others. We whose lives he touched will dearly miss him, a man not only of many lifetime achievements but of tremendous caring and love.