Deacon William Gray, former diocesan rural life director, dies; funeral is April 9

Deacon William Gray

HAMILTON — A funeral Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. on Saturday, April 9, at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Nauvoo for Deacon William Joseph “Bill” Gray, 83, of Hamilton. Burial will follow in Oakwood Cemetery, Hamilton.

Deacon Gray died on Monday, April 4, 2022, at Blessing Hospital in Quincy.

Visitation is planned for Friday, April 8, from 3 to 7 p.m. at Sts. Peter and Paul Church, with a rosary at 3 p.m.

Born Dec. 27, 1938, in Keokuk, Iowa, Deacon Gray was the son of William Bride and Willa Delores (Lower) Gray. They preceded him in death.

He attended Hamilton High School where he lettered in football, track, band and chorus. After he graduated in 1957, Deacon Gray attended the University of Illinois, earning his bachelor of science in agriculture in 1961. While there, he was a member of the Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity, served on the Interfraternity Council, and completed an internship with the National Livestock and Meats Board.

On June 24, 1961, he married Elaine Steimel at St. Mary Church in DeKalb. They were active as 4-H leaders when their five children were younger.

Part of the Diocese of Peoria’s fifth class of permanent deacons, he was ordained by Bishop John J. Myers on May 9, 1992, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria. He served Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Nauvoo until being granted senior status in 2017.

“Our ministry is very much a couple’s ministry,” Deacon Gray told The Catholic Post on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of his ordination in 2017. “The people that we serve see us as one.”

A lifelong farmer, Deacon Gray was diocesan director of rural life from 2004 to 2010.

In addition to liturgical and sacramental ministry, his diaconate service included a weekly presence with students at Sts. Peter and Paul School in Nauvoo; ministry to the sick and homebound; adult education, including Bible studies and spiritual formation groups; high school youth ministry; assistant spiritual director for Cursillo; and several years on the Deacon Council.

He made more than 10 trips to Catholic HEART Workcamps with high school students, and participated in nearly 50 Cursillo weekends.

Deacon Gray is survived by his wife, Elaine, of Hamilton, and their children, William Cary (Lisa) Gray of Hamilton; Carla Jean (James Farley and Caron Jo Gray, both of Omaha, Nebraska; Craig Joseph (Lucia) Gray of Mahtomedi, Minnesota; and Christopher Alexander (Misty) Gray of Nixa, Missouri. There are also 12 grandchildren, Lindsey (David) Henson, Courtney (Brad) Newcomer, Caleb (Jenny) Gray, Logan (Rebecca) Gray, Sarah (Benjamin) Gill, Joseph (Tabatha) Farley, Michael Minckler, Amanda Minckler, Marin Gray, Connor Gray, Maddi Gray and Hudson Gray; and 10 great grandchildren, Grady and Emma Henson, Avery and Abby Newcomer, Liam, Fiona and Isabel Gray, Fulton Gray, and Ronan and Torrin Gill.

In addition, his sister, Julie Might of Morrisville, North Carolina, survives.

Memorials may be directed to Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School in Nauvoo, St. John’s Catholic Chapel at the University of Illinois or the 4-H Club of Hancock County.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A listing of Deacon Gray’s many agricultural and civic memberships can be found in the obituary on the Printy Funeral Home website.

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