News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2011
EVANS, Ga. -- On their comfortable couch in their warm Evans home, members of the Gray family reflected on the enormous presence who will no longer be with them there.
"He decided at one of our homes that he was going to build gardens with retaining walls. He involved the entire family," laughed Frances Gray-Head of her late father.
And laughter seemed to be the best medicine for the family members.
"One of the church members said [LTG Gray] wanted to go to Heaven, so he couldn't get into politics," joked Annie Gray, his widow.
"Our family has a good sense of humor. We can laugh when we have to. And even when we don't have to, we can laugh," Frances said.
It was just last week when she lost her father -- Lt. Gen. Robert E. Gray.
"This is a big loss to our family because no one ever expects the unexpected," she said.
Gray was leaving a deer hunt in Millen when the accident happened.
Gen. Gray enlisted in the Army as a private and worked his way though the ranks to become lieutenant general. After commanding Fort Gordon, the Augusta community had won his heart. He retired here in 1997.
"There was just something about the people here, something about the community, that made him want to come here and contribute," said another daughter of Gray, Edith Gray-Negahban.
They say even after Gray retired, his presence was still strongly felt at Fort Gordon. He mentored any soldier that asked him for help.
"He just wanted to see people succeed," said his wife, Annie.
And they say his reach was truly global. This week, they've been flooded with call and cards from all over the world.
"His influence or touching of lives goes from Alabama to Zimbabwe," Frances said.
Now, his family remembers his professional and personal legacy; it's the legacy of an American patriot.
"Our freedom was purchased from the lives, the blood and the fortunes of patriots who not only signed the Declaration of Independence but also fought to ensure that it became a reality," said LTG Gray back in 1999 at a flag ceremony at the Signer's Monument in Augusta.
The family says despite his honorable rank, he was very down to Earth. After only a few minutes of meeting someone, he'd prefer they call him 'Bob.'
The family extends their deepest gratitude to the community that has lifted them up after this tragedy. They say the support from Fort Gordon, Augusta, the First Baptist Church of Augusta and others throughout this area and the world has been invaluable to them.
Gray's family will receive friends Dec. 7 at First Baptist Church of Augusta. The funeral is the next day at 11 a.m. News 12 will be airing the funeral on its My12 station.