James “Jimmy” Gray was born to Lewis and Rose Gray in Albia, Iowa. You could often find him skipping school to shoot pool at the pool hall. He met the love his life, Sandra, in Albia. Jim, after being diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in late July, wanted desperately to celebrate their 54th wedding anniversary in early September and was able to enjoy that day with his wife and their family.
Newton became home to Jim and Sandy after he began working for Maytag. While his official position was a metal finisher, we hear he spent most of his time gabbing with people with a coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other. He retired from Maytag in the late 90s. Following his retirement, Jim held a few odd jobs including a Domino’s Driver and working at the Iowa Speedway. His gift of gab played a large role in his life, so any job where he could chat someone up, he was in heaven.
But more than who he was as an employee, he was a proud father of two amazing kids. Jim and Sandy were blessed with Bryan “Tony” and Tina in the early 70s. As a family, they enjoyed board games, watching tv, camping, and a few excursions to Worlds of Fun and Wisconsin Dells. As the kids grew, the family grew. Tony married Lisa Stevens in the early 90s, so their nuclear family grew plus one. Lisa was more than a daughter-in-law, she was Jimmy’s daughter too. Lisa and Tony added one more with the birth of their son Jon Mikel in the mid-90s The Gray family is a family that above all, laughs together, laughs often, and loves fiercely. Tina is currently engaged to Corey Stevens who Jim accepted as a son-in-law immediately along with the addition of another grandson, Mason.
Jim was an avid outdoorsman, through and through. Back in the day, he participated in what “the kids” now call LARPing (Live action role playing). He, along with his musket, participated in a group called the Buckskinners, muzzle loaders and civil war reenactments. He loved fishing and hunting morel mushrooms and could find them by simply driving slowly along a park road.
Most recently, he was a dedicated volunteer with Central Iowa Outdoors without Boundaries, an organization to help disabled people get into the outdoors. He was looking forward to the deer hunt in November, so know that you will be getting cheered on from above… maybe he might scare a few deer your way. This organization was very important to him as Jim was a stranger to none and a friend to all. He would give his shirt off his back to anyone and could talk your ear off if you had time to listen.
Jim spent the day before his death surrounded by family. He leaves us with many happy and silly memories and a request that he wants us all to be happy and that includes all of you, his friends.
Jim is survived by his wife Sandy; son Tony (Lisa) Gray; daughter Tina Carstensen (fiancé Corey Stevens); grandsons Jon Gray and Mason Stevens.
Jim is preceded in death by his parents (Lewis and Rose), three brothers (William, Robert, Jerry), sister (Carol) and his son-in-law (Jay Carstensen).
A private burial service will be held at a later date at Palo Alto Cemetery - A Celebration of Life will follow. We anticipate it will be Spring 2021 due to COVID-19 precautions.
Memorials to Central Iowa Outdoors without Boundaries (firstname.lastname@example.org) may be mailed to the family or left at the Wallace Family Funeral Home and Crematory.
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