Roger Gray, 84, of Pontiac, passed away peacefully Thursday, June 7, 2018 at 10:13 a.m. at Knox County Nursing Home in Knoxville, IL with his family at his side.
His service will be held Saturday, June 9, 2018 at 10:30 a.m. at Duffy-Baier-Snedecor Funeral Home in Pontiac with Deacon Jim Wallace officiating. Burial with full military honors will follow at Southside Cemetery in Pontiac.
Visitation will be Saturday, June 9, 2018 from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m. at the funeral home.
Roger was born February 10, 1934 at the home of his grandparents, Frank & Cora Bratt, on the original Route 66 & North Street in Pontiac to parents, Kenneth E. and Helen (Bratt) Gray. As a child, Roger worked for his uncle, Donald Bratt, at a garage with a sizable junkyard. At age 17½, Roger, a junior in high school, asked his mother to sign for him to enlist in the Air Force during the Korean War. Roger served in the Air Force from 1951-1955. Airman First Class Gray was top of his class for all training programs, and as a result he was sent to USAF Training program for teachers.
Gray then taught airplane hydraulics and repair until his Honorable Discharge from the Reserves. While in the USAF, Roger married another Route 66 native, Betty Ann Thompson, also from Pontiac, on June 12, 1954. Roger worked at Brocton Heel as Foreman and Heavy Duty Machine Repairman prior to starting his own business. In 1963, Roger bought and started Gray's Garage which for 9 years was located at the junction of Routes 66 & 116. The business moved to its present location at the junction of Route 23 and Interstate 55.
This business has become an icon along the Route 66 corridor between Chicago, Springfield and beyond. It opened with 24 hour wrecker service, auto body repair, and repair of everything between a VW Beetle and an 18 wheeled semi. In the early years, he assisted in extricating victims from accidents, as emergency services were in their infancy. Travelers and area residents alike could count on Roger or one of his competent mechanics to get them back on Route 66 quickly. Over the years, Roger assisted area State Troopers along the Route 66 corridor, too many times to count, removing vehicles blocking highways in blizzard conditions, truck-train collisions and lifting trucks back into an upright position. Roger Gray was inducted into the Route 66 Hall of Fame in June 2012. March 22, 2018, was the 55th anniversary for continuous family operation of Gray’s Garage.
Roger enjoyed constructing wreckers used for the business, home building and woodworking projects, fishing and traveling in the USA and being with his family.
Roger Gray is survived by his wife Betty; six children, Dan (Pat) Gray, Pontiac, Tim (Celia) Charlotte, NC, Kathy (Dennis) Schumacher Monmouth, IL, Jeff (Donna) Gray Pontiac, IL, Cindy (Dennis) Warren Pontiac, IL, and Mary (Brian) Harston Midland, MI; 13 Grandchildren; 18 Great-Grandchildren; and his brother, Leon (Louise) Gray of Pontiac.
He was preceded in death by his parents and infant brother.
Memorials may be made to the charity of the donor's choice. Online condolences may be made to the family at duffyfuneralhome.com or visit us on Facebook.