Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I wanted to let you know about a Special Mid-Week Sing in honor of Neal Gray this Thursday, 11/12/09. Potluck at 6:30 PM will include his favorite lasagna and singing will follow. Please bring photos of Neal, favorite songs, and memories. I've made the necessary parking arrangement with the Cambridge Parking Department so you can park on Mt. Vernon Street, Walnut Avenue, and Upland Road between Mass Ave and Walnut Ave. We're 1/2 block off Mass Ave just south of Porter Square T Station. Feel free to call for directions or questions. 617-876-0952 or Chris.firstname.lastname@example.org. Please pass this along to anyone you know who knew Neal.
Monday, October 19, 2009
One of Neal's angels, Sandra Waddock, put together an amazing collection of all of the emails and photos that Neal sent out to his angels over the years. The compilation is broken up over three PDF files, which you can find here:
Part I - History
Par II - Photography
Part III - Last Years
- Lori Fassman
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Words in quotations are Neal's unless otherwise credited.
I just want to say a word about the weather. I'm sure we would have all liked better weather today. But Neal Gray loved "dirty weathah." You may have noticed a picture of him up here dressed as a fisherman. He's ready for it.
Neal Gray was a realized soul. He threw himself into the moment without hesitation or reservation. On the day after his death, Gisele, one of Neal's many angels, wrote: "He's the only person I personally know who lived life as it should be lived...100%, not 35%, 50% or even 85%...but 100%." Not only was Neal extraordinarily alive, he was a dedicated and talented musician, who sung classical pieces, Gospel, traditional ballads, bawdy ditties and falsetto with equal zest. But perhaps his greatest gift was for friendship.
It doesn't seem possible to be a best friend to your daughter, dedicated to a wide family circle including a son-in-law, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins, (I hope I have not left anyone out) and a real friend to hundreds of persons, but Neal Gray was. He knew birthdays, children's and partner's names, the struggles, tragedies, hopes, dreams and triumphs of hundreds of people. Neal Gray got women, and we loved to be gotten by him. He took over two hundred of us under his ample wing, making us "Neal's Angels", giving us a special T-shirt, emailing jokes and pictures of sunsets he took himself, and sending us handmade cards for Valentine's day, Easter, Christmas and our birthdays. I don't remember what number angel I was. But he would brag about each new angel, "She's a hell of a gal."
Few of you may know that this was a conscious choice, the guiding mission of his life. Neal experienced terrible loneliness after the tragic loss of his beloved wife, Amanda. Another person would have become bitter, or bewildered and withdrawn. Not Neal. He vowed, whenever he could, however he could, to alleviate in others the suffering and loneliness he had experienced firsthand. This is why so many of his angels were divorced or widowed. He was always on the look out for someone who was struggling to make their way alone, often in the face of hardship, so that he might offer them concrete help, solace and joy.
If we are lucky, we count among our friends and families a good listener. Often someone centered and wise enough to be a good listener is quiet and serious. If we are lucky, we count among our friends someone unfailingly positive and playful. But often these persons are not able to hear us out when we are lost, sick, afraid or sad. Neal had both these qualities. He was a truly good listener, always willing to offer comfort to a troubled friend. Neal would listen with care, ask if you were done speaking, and offer simple, well chosen words of encouragement that although they did not deny your reality, created room for hope. He might then share a challenge of his own, giving you the gift of being there in turn. This made you feel strong and useful, and pulled you out of our own challenges.
Then his irrepressible smile would start to play across his face. His eyes would start to sparkle, his crow's feet would crinkle, and he would jump to his feet, a big grin on his face. Neal would chortle "Now what are we going to do for fun?"
Neal has graduated. "Hot diggity!" He is a real angel now. We know his soul is deeply well, and that he is making a scene in heaven, yelling like Tarzan while Saint Peter holds his hands over his ears. But he leaves a big hole in each of our hearts. "Now what are we going to do for fun?" First we must grieve. We feel his loss so sharply because he loved so extravagantly, spread joy so freely, and was such a gifted and multifaceted man. We must seek stillness and honor the need to mourn, listening to ourselves and each other with just as much attention and skill as Neal listened to us. There will come a day when we leap up, remembering with joy what a character our friend was and shout "Now what are we going to do for fun?"
Neal had boundless energy. He stayed up until three or four in the morning many nights, emailing his hundreds of friends. He maintained a prayer list and sang in six choirs. He worked, drove, sang and chopped wood right up until the days before a brief illness took him from us at age 85. He was adventurous, sometimes reckless, kayaking without a life jacket and answering the cell phone from a ladder at the yacht club. "What a revolting predicament" when our 83-year- old friend answers his cell phone while standing on an icy, sloped roof. Neal was irrepressible and there were times we wanted to strap him down. He packed more into a single day than most of us do in a week.
Who will fill Neal Gray's shoes? There is not one person here who could. But I would like to issue an invitation. Let us, as we grieve, think fondly and carefully of our friend. And let us, each in accordance with our own natures, talents, and dreams, pick one aspect of Neal Gray and make it our own. If you want to take up photography, work in to your 80's, race cars, write a book, or ask a pretty lady to a fancy dinner, and pick her up in a vintage convertible, getting the car door, her coat, and the chair, standing when she returns to the table, go for it. What will we do now for fun? Boat parties? Sing-alongs? Casserole potlucks? Join a chorus traveling overseas? Salsa dance until our date, 38 years younger, begs to go home and go to sleep? Strap miniature canons under our classic cars and drive around until we see a cop, then let it rip?
Maybe you would prefer to spread cheer or offer comfort, listening to a neighbor who has just been diagnosed with cancer, picking out a lovely piece of jewelry or a good book for a recently widowed friend, taking someone who has just been laid off or divorced out to eat, or sending Valentine's day cards to every single person that you love. Whatever your dream is, do it. Whatever talent you have, cultivate it. Whoever needs help, lend them a hand. Whatever your gift is, large or small, share it. Neal Gray let his little light shine, shine, shine, without ceasing, without apology. Neal Gray never hid his light under a bushel. Neither should we.
No one of us can fill Neal Gray's shoes. But if each of us picks one way, large or small, to emulate him, heaven will share him with us. We can spread who he was a hundred or ten thousand fold, healing this weary and troubled world, just as he, with his magnificent openheartedness, healed each of us: with his boundless enthusiasm, his high jinks and mischief, his endless support, his creative generosity and his enormous love. Neal Gray was the embodiment of love. How magnificent it was to be his friend. May each of us be lit by this love, like a match touching a candle and catching fire. May the love that was Neal Gray spread infinitely and last forever, through each of us, the people we touch and help in turn, passing to those who did not have the honor and privilege of knowing Neal Gray. Hand to hand, heart to heart, in voice and deed, let us pass along Neal Gray's love like a lantern.
Monday, October 5, 2009
The loss of Neal Gray is inexpressible: one so profound - of such proportions - it seems the hole in our hearts and in our lives is just as deep and as wide.
I can't imagine BCC (or a world) without Neal Gray in it. No one can. We know that his spirit was so large, so loving, and so generous that he will always be with us; and that we will try to honor him through the love and generosity and bigness of our own spirits...
But that doesn't stop our hearts from aching for want of his presence.
God grant Neal peace.
And God grant us peace as well.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
..but I'm no fool. I know there are entire harems of women out there (fess up ya'll!) who Neal loved, who love him back and feel the same way I do. Here's the selfish take on how I'll feel Neal's absence:
Who will send me that special Valentine's Day card when I otherwise wouldn't get one?
Who will have the most unique and heartfelt Christmas cards (Messianic or not--Neal's were always the best!)?
Who will unselfishly keep up with prayer requests, allowing me to cover needs from 8 different choir rosters?
Who will manage Neal's Angels--a cadre of women only the most unaffected lover could maintain?
There's only one J. Neal Gray. There could be only one. I'm just humbled that he counted me among his friends.
I love you, Neal, and I'm an Angel forever. Just because you got to run around heaven before I did doesn't mean that I'm not coming. Enjoy perfection. G-d knows you were His perfect love to me.
Kena "Shekinah" Drumgo
Friday, October 2, 2009
He would share his favorite finds for photo shoots and I would tell him of some great painting spots I had found.
Around the grounds at the SHYC you could always spot Neal enthusiastically moving from place to place, always stopping to acknowledge and say hello to all and retell some funny story. And what great heights he would scale to get that perfect photograph, quite literally. His zest for life was incredibly contagious.
Our lives were enriched having known you, Neal.
To Mimi and your family, thank-you for sharing with the rest of us such a wonderful man and my thoughts and prayers are with you,
Peggy Farrell Bruno
Thursday, October 1, 2009
(from the Boston Globe, October 1, 2009)
GRAY, J. Neal Age 85, of Scituate, passed away surrounded by his family at South Shore Hospital on Saturday, September 26, 2009 after a brief illness. Neal was born to William and Sara Gray on May 31, 1924. He was a graduate of Vesper George School of Art in Boston. He served in the US Navy on the aircraft carrier USS Croatan. His career was in Quality Control and Technical publications working on the Patriot Missile Project and development of the Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) Project. He was employed most recently at the Scituate Harbor Yacht Club and formerly at General Dynamics, General Electric, Raytheon and Stone & Webster. He was the Past President of the Scituate Art Assoc., a member of the Gulf River Assoc., and a Mason. He was an avid singer and belonged to the St. Luke's Choir, Coral Arts Society, Berkshire Coral, the Scituate Ceilidhe, The Boston Community Choir, Joyful Voices of Inspiration, Millennium Gospel Choir and the Boston Pops Gospel Choir. Neal was the beloved husband of the late Amanda Chase Gray. He is survived by his daughter Michelle Bonomi and her husband, Joseph P., Bonomi, III and his grandchildren, Melissa, Nicole, and Joseph P. Bonomi, IV all of Scituate, as well as many nieces and nephews. A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, October 3 at 11 a.m. in St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 465 First Parish Rd., Scituate,MA. Visiting hours omitted. Interment Private. In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy may be made to St. Luke's, Episcopal Church, 465 First Parish Rd., Scituate, MA. 02066. For an online guestbook, please visit www.mcnamara-sparrell.com McNamara-Sparrell Funeral Homes Brighton-Cohasset-Norwell 781-383-0200
He travelled by train from Boston to L.A. to give me away at my wedding. Some of you may even have recently been delivered the play by play on that trip in his Angel Email's. It was a beautiful wedding and Uncle Neal, in the abscense of my father, who passed away in '83, was as gracious and wonderful as anyone would expect. He will truly be missed. We adored him so much. I speak for all of the Hopkins family in thanking everyone for loving him and enjoying their time with him. I will see you on Saturday morning.
With lot's of love,
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
My heart felt sympathy for his family, I hope you dwell more on the celebration of his life - he was such a wonderful, loving, unique friend.
Please post where he will be interred, I would like to stop by and pay my respects when I get the chance to come home to MA.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Here is the Order of Service:
A Celebration of the Life of
J. Neal Gray
May 31, 1924—September 26, 2009
The Order of Service
(BCP is the red book in the pew)
Mingulay Boat Songl, tune Song of Isles: Solo Kathy Moore
Opening Anthem BCP p. 491
Hymn: Eternal Father, strong to save (Naval Hymn) Blue Hymnal, 608
Collects BCP p. 493/4
The Liturgy of the Word
Isaiah 61: 1-3 Nick Waterman
Psalm 23 sung by Neal Gray Memorial Choir
Romans 8: 14-19, 34-35, 37-39 Steve Immerman
Choir Anthem Jesus the Apple Tree
The Holy Gospel John 14: 1-6
The Homily the Rev. Grant Barber
- William Liscomb
- Julie Williams
- Melissa Bonomi
- Leo Harrington
Choir Anthem Heal Our Land
Prayers of the People BCP p. 497
Choir Anthem Total Praise Blue Hymnal 593
The Holy Communion
The Great Thanksgiving BCP p. 361
Sanctus front of Blue Hymnal S 125
The Lord’s Prayer BCP p. 364
The Breaking of the Bread (said)
Post Communion Prayer BCP p. 498
Choir Anthem He Reigns Forever
Dismissal Hymn: Beechspring back of hymnal
Hymn: For all the saints Hymnal 287
Members of all churches (Roman Catholic, Protestant, or Eastern Orthodox) are invited to receive communion with the family.
The Reception follows immediately at PJ’s Restaurant on Chief Justice Cushing Highway
Just to let you know, our business manager, Norris Welch, for Boston Community Choir is working with the priest and the church choir director re: numbers of singers for the "mass choir" that will sing Saturday morning. He needs to hear back from people directly with "RSVP's" so to speak, so they'll have an idea re: how to make space for people in the choir loft, etc. For all info re: singers for mass choir, please contact Norris at:
FUNERAL SERVICE INFORMATION:
LOCATION: St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 465 First Parish Road,
DATE / TIME: Saturday, Oct 3, 2009 from 11A - 12:30P (this is
the full service, NO wake)
DIRECTIONS: are attached in this email
A huge mass choir is expected to be put together for this service that will sing 2-3 choir songs and about 2 congregational hymns. ALL music will be handled by the church's music director, Jean Anderson Collier. I am told the songs will NOT be difficult, and is probably something that will be recognized by most people, and to NOT worry about this part. A confirmation of the songs will be discussed at the 4pm family meeting on Tuesday, and they will get that info to me to pass out.
HOW YOU CAN HELP:
If you are interested/able to sing in this mass choir, you are asked to do the following: (1) send email to email@example.com so they can try to prepare enough space in the choir area to accomodate everyone, (2) arrive at the church at 9:30A for the rehearsal for the songs. (3) please wear the choir garment that your group normally sings in as this wil show the differences in the many groups Neal was associated with.
Now confirmed with both the family and the funeral home: the Celebration of Life for Neal will be this coming Saturday at 11 a.m. at our parish. There are no calling hours the day before. Reception will follow immediately at PJs Restaurant in Scituate.
I am encouraging all who sang with Neal and would like to sing for his funeral to be at the church by 9:30 a.m. for a rehearsal. I am picturing a wonderful, vibrant choir made up of people from all of Neal's various choirs.
I'll be sending Norris the list of songs that will be sung as anthems by the choir as well as hymns for choir and congregation. I am meeting with the family Tuesday at 4 p.m. to go over those sorts of details. If you plan to joing this 'unified' choir then please wear what you ordinarily would to a concert--choir robes, or formal wear. Norris will be in further contact with choir members.
Please pass word along to any who are not on this email list who would want to know, and do not hesitate to email me or call the cell phone listed below.Grant Barber
St. Luke's Episcopal Church465 First Parish Rd
Services Sunday 8 & 10 a.m.
Take 3 south of Braintree to exit 13.
At the end of the exit there is a light. Take a left at the light; signs toward Norwell/Hingham.
Less than a mile up there is another light (Assinippi General Store on your right, Dunkin Donuts across the street). This is Route 123, going through Norwell. Take that right.
You will travel several miles all through Norwell, passing as well the State Highway Patrol Barracks where the speed limit is 25...just a heads up there.
You will eventually come to a rotary in Scituate. Despite what the signs say about reaching Scituate, you want to take the fourth exit off of the rotary...that will be coming almost full circle around from where you started. This is Route 3A north, also called Chief Justice Cushing HIghway.
A bit more than a mile up you will come to the next traffic light.
St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 465 First Parish Road, will be on your right.
Parking is in both front and back of church (much more in the back), as well as use of town hall's lot across the street. I'll try to have someone sitting by the church phone to field questions from lost people: 781-545-9482.
Plans are still in the making and probably won't be finalized until Tuesday. However it would make sense to keep Saturday open if you wish to attend the celebration of his life. Neal was a member of at least four choirs. We will ask that we have unified choir to sing all the anthems and hymns. Our choir director/organist, Dr. Jean Anderson Collier who is on faculty at the New England Conservatory of Music, will be the director of the choir. We ask that any who want to participate in the choir wear their performance clothes...choir robes, formal wear, whatever is your tradition. IF the funeral home falls in line with the plans that the the family has then rehearsal will be at 9:30 a.m. with service at 11 a.m. Confirmation of this is still needed.
If I could get the contact information for all the choir directors in order to coordinate flow of information it would be great.
Peace to you all.
+May the souls of the faithful departed through thy mercy or Lord, rest in peace; may light perpetual shine upon him forever.+
The Rev. Grant Barber
St. Luke's Episcopal Church
Services Sunday 8 & 10 a.m.