Gilbert Edward Cray Jr. passed away on January 23, 2014 in Hampton, Virginia after a battle with cancer. He was 73 years old.
Gil was born on March 29, 1941 in Erie, PA to Maudie and Gilbert Cray Sr. After graduating McDowell High School in 1959, he enlisted in the United States Air Force. He served in the United States Air Force for 28 years. Gil was a professional jazz piano player for most of his life. While in the Air Force, he was based in Germany for three years, and on multiple bases around the United States. In 1973, Gil transferred to Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C. where became a member of the world renowned USAF jazz band: “The Airmen Of Note,” for nearly 15 years. During his time with “the Note”, Gil performed for presidents, world leaders, his fellow servicemen, and the public around the United States and overseas.
After his retirement from the Air Force, Gil continued to play jazz clubs around the D.C. area as well as teach multiple students the arts of Jazz piano. He also received his Associates Degree in Electronics. For the last few years of his life, Gil worked as a home health care aid for senior citizens and continued to teach piano in Fredericksburg, VA.
A Virginia resident since 1973, Gil is survived by his two sons, Scott Cray of Virginia Beach, and Robert Cray of Asheville NC, as well as their mother, Kathryn Kroll Cray of Fredericksburg, VA. Gil has eight grandchildren: Grant, Cora, Essene, Judayah, Sariyah, Amannah, Justus, and Iannah. He is also survived by his younger brother William Cray and his wife Nancy Taylor Cray of Erie, PA.
Gil’s music was a gift to his family, his country, and the world. His love of music was the driving force of his life. His musical legacy will live on through the Cray name for many generations to come.
An event to celebrate his Gil’s life will be held in late March in the Fredericksburg, Virginia area. Please contact Scott Cray at email@example.com in early March for more information for exact date, time, and location. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be sent to the Palliative and Hospice Care Program at the Hampton, VA, Veterans Medical Center. Building 14, 100 Emancipation Drive Hampton, VA, 23667 757.722.9961 ext 2276.Send Flowers
I didn’t get to spend the time I would have liked to have spent with Gil. I wasn’t on the Airmen Of Note with him very long, but the time I did have was great. His musicianship was incredible in both his piano playing and his arrangements. I have no doubt that he will be missed by many, and I certainly am very sad that he is no longer with us.
To the Cray family..It was a honor to know Gil when I too was in the AF Band during the 60’s. We met on occasion and I was very happy to hear him perform. A truly great pianist. I left the band career field and went on to other things, but I will always remember Gil and the influence he had on my playing.
Sincerly, Joseph A. Deutsch, Major, USAF res ret.
Although Gil and I were contemporaries, he entering USAF bands in 1959 and I in 1960,we never served together. From everything I heard over the years, that was my loss. I salute a fine musician who gave his all to USAF music.
Gil was a good friend, we were roommates at Ramstein Germany back in the 60s. He enjoyed life and we had some great times together. Gil was a great musician and always willing to share his knowledge with anyone who asked. It was an honor to know him and spend time him. God Bless you Gil.
I was stationed with Gill at Ramstein AFB Germany from Dec. `65 until I left in Oct.`68. He was “Mr.Cool” in my book. I had the privilege of accompanying him on bass fiddle as well as playing his terrific arrangements on Bari-sax with the dance band. We have lost a fine musician and a fine person.
My deepest condolences to Gil’s family. Gibby, as he was known to all of us at McDowell High, was a talented musician with our dance band. It was Gib who convinced me, as the vocalist, to sit up on the piano when I sang. Sadly, we will pay tribute to him at our reunion this summer.
Gil and I served together in the Patrick Band until he left for Ramstein. Besides being a fabulous jazz pianist, he was such a great guy. When he shipped out he left his tool set with me..I was to send him $20 bucks as payment. Well, I never got around to it. 40 years later, we sit down together at a re-union luncheon, I say “Hey Gil, here’s that $20 bucks I owe you, with interest!” He says “Whaaat, you don’t owe me anything.” I finally force $30 bucks on him, and a week later he e-mails me saying he doesn’t feel right taking the extra $10 bucks!! For 40 years I owed him $20 bucks and he wouldn’t take a dime more! He sent me a check for the $10 bucks! I saw Gil for the last time at the hospice, and though he didn’t remember me or any of the old times, it was still special. What a guy he was!
So sorry to hear of your loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. May your memories give you peace until you meet with him again. God Bless.
Gil has been a part of our life for too many years to count. From beach vacations, talks about kids and living on the water, hearing him play at clubs and restaurants, bicycle rides with Ina, to just hanging out. His soft and kind manner as well as his musical abilities will always be remembered. We will miss him. We hope that Kathy and the boys are doing well and look forward to seeing everyone in March.