In 2000, Phyllis E. Gray established a sports camp scholarship through the Sturgis Area Community Foundation. Phyllis took great pleasure in rewarding multiple scholarships each spring to Sturgis High School athletes until her death in June of 2022.
Her granddaughters, Jessica and Ashley, were both three-sport varsity athletes and Phyllis witnessed firsthand all the time and effort they dedicated in order to excel. Both girls played varsity volleyball while Jessica enjoyed success in tennis and golf; Ashley enjoyed success in basketball and softball. Phyllis noticed that a vital component of their athletic achievements was their participation in sports camps.
“After the girls went to college, I wanted to encourage other young women in the same way,” said Gray.
Therefore Phyllis set up a scholarship fund that provides monetary support for young ladies playing tennis, volleyball, golf, softball, or basketball.
“I really want to see other young ladies enjoy and excel at the same sports as my granddaughters.”
*The following is an excerpt from the Sturgis Journal from June 21, 2022
Phyllis Elinor Gray, 97, passed away peacefully on June 17, 2022, at her Klinger Lake home surrounded by family.
She was born on August 16, 1924 at home in White Pigeon, Michigan to Vivian Maude Huff and Phillip Thomas Cady. She started 1/2 day kindergarten at the new white Pigeon school (which opened that year) and eventually graduated from White Pigeon High School with 22 others.
She met the love of her life, Dale E. Gray when he transferred to White Pigeon in 7th grade. They started dating their sophomore year of high school and were married on November 9, 1946, after Dale returned from being drafted into the military and serving his country as an Air Force pilot.
Phyllis worked a short time at the White Pigeon Lumber and also the Wolverine Carton company. When Dale returned from WW II, homes were hard to find. Phyllis and Dale lived with their parents as they built their first home together in White Pigeon on State Street. They would work at their day jobs and then work to dig the basement and lay cinder blocks at night and on weekends. They eventually completed the house with help from family. They moved into the house with borrowed furniture and love in their hearts.
Dale and his brother worked at Guy-Leroy Tool and Die for a year until it went out of business. It was at this moment that the two brothers decided to go into business for themselves. They considered a car dealership and it did not materialize. Instead, they purchased a punch press and started Gray Brothers.
Goshen Ladder was the first and only customer. Eventually, ladder hardware would become the specialty of Gray Brothers, and ladder parts were shipped all over the US, Canada, and Mexico. Gray Brothers would go on to purchase Tube Fabricators in Burr Oak, start Unique US products and purchase Midwest Fire Protection. Gray Brothers is still in operation today. President Ashley Riley Miller has taken over day-to-day operations after the passing of Jim Riley, the son-in-law of Dale and Phyllis. Jim married their only daughter Sheila on June 29, 1974.
Phyllis had a huge belief in philanthropy. She established two scholarship funds through the Sturgis Foundation- The Dale E. Gray Council of the Arts Scholarship and the Phyllis Gray Girls Sports Scholarship. She also donated a tennis court and childcare room at the Doyle Community Center in Sturgis as well as being instrumental in the construction of the Dale E Gray Science Building at Glen Oaks Community College. She was a consistent contributor to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Klinger Lake Country Club, the Sturgis Hospital Campaign, the First Presbyterian Church in Sturgis, White Pigeon High School, and the James E. Riley Memorial Fund supports Veterans and Emotional Support Animals locally. She was recognized for these efforts by being named the 2013 White Pigeon Citizen of the Year and receiving the 2022 Fellows Award at Glen Oaks Community College.
Her other passions included travel, sports cars, and family. After Dale's passing, Phyllis took over 30 trips with the Merry Widows Club - a ballroom dancing group that traveled the world.
Her extensive travel traveling took her all over the USA as well as Europe, Asia, and Russia. This was in addition to traveling to her winter home in Estero, Florida at Wildcat Run Golf & Country Club. When she was home White Pigeon, she could be seen driving one of her sports cars. She loved driving and drove until just before she passed away.