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1941 Perry 2021

Perry Robert Wray

April 5, 1941 — December 17, 2021

Perry Robert Wray, 80, died Friday, December 17, 2021, at his home in Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona.

He is survived by son, Robert (Bobby) Wray (GayeLynne) of Newton, KS, his daughter, Lisa Wray Russ Kenney of Phoenix, AZ and his brother, Douglas Wray of Colchester, CT.; Grandchildren, Desiree Schlichtig, Spencer Wray, Jean Russ III, Nicholas Russ and Daniel Russ; and ten great grandchildren.

He was born in Gary, Indiana on April 5, 1941 to the late Perry Cunningham Wray and Mabel Naomi (Anderson) Wray.

Perry grew up in the tall wild dunes on the shore of Lake Michigan.  Like most of the children in those days from that region, the freedom to explore outdoors and to build forts and tree houses and just hang out on the beach helped to shape life-long personal values and traits.

In his youth, Perry loved water-skiing on the lake, but, since he didn't have his own boat, he would just stand in the water holding his slalom board with his hitchhiking thumb sticking out.  He somehow always got a tow.

He attended Wirt High School, where he played football, track, cross-country, tumbling team etc. He also played cornet and French horn in the concert band and sang in choral groups.

During his teen years, he completely dismantled a car engine and rebuilt it (with dual carburetors) in a '41 Coupe.  He painted a flame job on its front using his mother's vacuum cleaner to power his improvised spray-gun.  After that, he regularly raced it at the local drag strip. On the other hand, he also placed second in the city-wide Teenage Safe-Driving Rodeo.

After high school, he worked for U.S. Steel for a few years, supporting his family, including his two small children, until he decided that his true passion was creating and teaching art. 

To pursue that career, he and his family moved to West Lafayette, IN, where he attended and graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Art Education. 

Shortly thereafter, he moved to Phoenix, Arizona where he taught art in the public school system for over 30 years.

As a teacher, coach and mentor, he was a natural at inspiring his students, who loved him so much that many of them kept in close contact with him for years after they graduated and had families of their own..

His passions were gardening, cooking, camping and playing music with many different instruments, with his favorites the banjo and mountain dulcimer. He loved riding his bicycle that included a ride across Ireland and the Iowa RAGBRAI with his brother. Another one of his loves was his passion for clay; he loved spending his time with his many friends at Northland Pioneer College in the clay lab. His other passions were coaching volleyball and mentoring youth.

Among his favorite sayings were: “Life is not a dress rehearsal”, “Why wait for the storm to pass, dance in the rain”, “Obey Gravity, it’s the Law” and “Boogie (Rock) on in Peace”. He lived his life to the fullest by exemplifying such notions of quiet strength with every breath he took.

Services will be held at a later date in the spring. Donations in his memory may be made to the Humane Society of the White Mountains, 3212 Porter Mountain Road, Lakeside, AZ 85929, in honor of his pooch Arrow who misses him dearly.


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