Ascending to Heaven in the early morning hours of Dec. 7, 2021, James Joseph Gray, Jr. lived a well-loved life surrounded by a large family and many friends. James was known by many names by those who loved him: Jimbo, Brother Gray, Daddio, and the most recent esteemed title, Papa Gray. Though, he was known by most as Jimmy. Jimmy was born July 10, 1961, to Margery JoAnn Gray (Gallup) and James Joseph Gray Sr. He passed away at 60 years of age.
Growing up in Macomb and Mountain Grove, the family didn’t have a lot of money, but his siblings fondly remember their mom, JoAnn, being able to buy an eight pack of bottled soda every once in a while. She would diligently pour only half of the bottles so that there was enough for everyone. Jimmy would always save his soda for later and then come tease his siblings after theirs was gone. Snacks were the same in that he would bring them out of hiding days or weeks later. In the summer of 1990, Jimmy and his brother Dennis moved to Branson, by bus. They started out camping at the state park, and Jimmy later getting an apartment. Shortly after arriving, he got a job at the Wildwood Flower. He shined as a responsible, loyal and trustworthy employee, where he was quickly promoted to manager. Jimmy started as a dishwasher and promptly showed his worth as he moved up the chain. He did everything from show lighting to chef and even the owner’s right-hand man. He even designed the hay bale mannequin that was always found fixin’ up the ol’ red classic pickup truck out front. In 1993, Jimmy then worked for Pump Boys and Dinettes, under ownership of Linda, where he had the most fun. He thoroughly enjoyed his time at the theater.
Throughout the various ownership changes, Jimmy served 11 years on the crew. Though he didn’t actually play in any of the shows, Jimmy did dabble in playing the mandolin and the harmonica. Hard work continued as he took a second job as the manager of the apartment complex in which he and his boys resided. Work was a pride of Jimmy’s. He was a work enthusiast and always found a way to put his customers first. After leaving the show business, he went into maintenance at Surrey Grand Crowne Resorts, where he loyally served just shy of 20 years at his time of passing. Jimmy held many awards for his work performance and customer service at Grand Crown. He loved his job and did it with pride, bringing a smile to many faces from across the country. He enjoyed traveling and though he didn’t chart a lot of miles, he was well-traveled with adventure from his interactions with resort guests. Not only did he provide stellar customer service, he built a rapport on a personal level, often getting to know repeat guests by name. Beyond a vacation, this left guests with the desire to return in hopes of seeing a friendly face. He did the same with his work colleagues as he built personal, long-lasting friendships. We fondly remember Jimmy’s jokes at family gatherings that he merely rode around in a golf cart changing light bulbs, but his work was much more than that. It is clear that he also brought joy to the families in which he served. Alongside his pride in his work, his pride was in his two boys, Shane and Shawn, which he selflessly raised on his own and later became a proud grandfather. Jimmy was known to his family and friends as a funny, caring, and gentle person. He was courageous, selfless, and God-fearing. He would do anything for his family, including giving the very shirt off his back, especially for his mom. Everything Jimbo partook in, he did it with enthusiasm and a smile on his face. His capacity for love was limitless and he never turned down an opportunity to help others. Jimmy was known for jumping right in to help or at least offering his assistance, and he preferred not to take compensation for said help. He liked to do things out of the kindness of his heart. Family gatherings were a joy with Jimbo! He was known as the family cut-up, prankster and tease. His outrageous and hysterical stories often brought infectious laughter wherever he went, which made him even more lovable. There were several years where we would call the family and tell them we weren’t going to make it for a holiday gathering, but then we would show up to surprise them. Jimbo always made for fun events and the Fourth of July family camping trip, his mom’s birthday, was looked forward to every year. Camping at Table Rock Lake was something the whole family rarely missed out on. As the family continued growing, we turned to cabins and RVs to better host everyone. We enjoyed many years of camping, boating, and fishing as a family. In fact, Jimmy named his prized fishing pole Eagle Eye Annie…she rarely missed a catch. We happily reminisce about never having more fun in our lives than the summers spent at Table Rock with the whole family.
Jimmy was a storyteller. At any given time, he had an amazing story to tell and it usually linked up with whatever activity was going on. We remember several times he reminisced with stories about riding in grandpa’s airplane. These moments often showcased just how versatile he was. Jimmy had a knack for making people laugh and frequently left you in stitches from laughing so much. Just like the person he was, when part of the family was in Branson for a softball tournament and their car broke down, he dropped what he was doing to go help. He fixed them up and then set his attention to the girls. He made a big deal of being a future softball star and brought a bat to be “autographed.” He even asked for a picture with her so he would have it when she was famous. Anyone who loved him knew he made anyone he encountered feel incredibly important. No matter the situation, he had a fun story to brighten the day and light up the room with laughter. Jimmy was an avid football aficionado and a loyal fan of the Kansas City Chiefs and the Missouri Tigers. You could often find the family outside throwing the football around at home and holiday gatherings. He had a love of music, often found listening to classic rock and classic country. His well-lit spirit will be missed.
Jimmy was preceded in death by his parents, James Gray Sr. and JoAnn Gallup; one brother, Michael James Gray; and one grandchild, Aubrey Gray. He is survived by two sons, Shane James Gray and his wife, Kylie, of Lacey, Wash.; Shawn Gray, of Branson; one brother, Dennis Edward Gray, of Mountain Grove; five sisters, Donna Driscoll, of Springfield; Pamela Gray, of Mountain Grove; Debra Williams and her husband, Tommy, of Elk Creek; Lisa Gray, of Mansfield; and Karen Hill and her husband, Mark, of Norwood; 10 nieces and nephews, Jennifer, Andrew, Wheat, Wind, Sky, Tanner, B.J., Adam, London and Candice; granddaughter, Emma; and many other relatives and friends who will greatly miss him. Visitation for James Joseph Gray, Jr. was held Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, from 1-2 p.m. at Craig-Hurtt Funeral Home. Funeral services followed the visitation at 2 p.m., also at the funeral home, with the Rev. Frank McCune officiating. Song selections were “Long Black Train” and “If You Want To Sing Out.” Shawn Gray, Shane Gray, Sky Williams, Wind Williams, Andrew Driscoll and Dennis Gray served as pallbearers. Burial was in Pleasant Hill Cemetery under the direction of Craig-Hurtt Funeral Home, Mountain Grove. Online condolences: www.craighurttfuneralhome.com.