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Richard E. - In Memoriam

Few of the current CSA gang ever had the privilege of knowing Richard E. (Dick) Gray. That is too bad, for Dick was one of those none-too-common individuals with whom it was truly rewarding to have been acquainted.

I first met Dick in 1977 at the old Black Forest Gliderport where Colorado Soaring Association was then based. As a neophyte to it all I was immediately impressed with his outgoing personality, his sincere friendliness and his desire to help. You got the impression of a solid, reliable individual wanting to share the joy of soaring. Over the subsequent 20-plus years those early views were only reinforced and I discovered his wicked sense of humor.

As time wore on it became obvious that Dick also was one of those wonderful folks who gave back to life a great deal more than they extracted. Regardless of the activity Dick was there to help and, unlike many of us, he typically knew what he was doing. Often his family pitched in including "bride" Nita and 2-3 of his six kids.

Dick was a self-taught but skilled mechanic (in the classical use of the term) and engineer. He saw better ways of making something, or making something work better. He kept all of CSA's ground equipment up and running, and was in constant demand to devise this or fix that for individual pilots. "Your glider trailer broke down in Walsenburg on the way back from Taos, I'll drive down and fix it next weekend and bring it back to Denver with my truck." That was Dick. On countless occasions he quietly gave up his own flying time to help others fix their stuff or get them off the ground.

For a decade he and Fred Lidinsky, another worthy CSAer of the time, sponsored an annual 9-day camp at Taos, a memorable soaring site. It was a club event but attracted numerous other pilots from around the country. CSA usually cleared something on the order of $400-$1000 each year as well and it introduced a number of low-time members to world-class soaring conditions. We also got to share some of the damnedest pool parties we had ever seen.

Dick owned a share of 610, a 1-26, and was a booster of the 1-26 Association. He co-managed the 1986 1-26 Championships held at OCGP and had worked the 1977 and 1981 Championships held at Black Forest and the Air Force Academy respectively. He also worked every "Labor Day Contest" at Black Forest that I can remember from 1977 on.

He served many years on the Board Of Directors of CSA in various capacities and I remember his wise and deliberate counsel well. He was part of the 1985 team that made the major decision to purchase what is now OCGP and it is here that his greatest legacy to CSA lies.

Dick was one year from retirement and very busy at work getting that place ready for him to do so. Yet he threw himself into the task of ensuring that our new base would become something to be proud of. Dick was not a young man, but he did a lot of the grunt labor along with the rest of the gang
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More importantly he designed, engineered, and with Fred, oversaw the construction of the clubhouse and its water, heat, sewage, and electrical systems. He planned out our water line and the conversion from a cistern, and laid out and obtained our initial three rows of tree plantings. He and Fred served as our general contractors from ordering materials to scheduling projects and dealing with vendors, and trying to cover up errors made by the labor force, us.

As the push came to try to finish the clubhouse in time for the 1986 1-26 Championships Dick, now retired, literally lived in his camper on the field to devote full time to the project. Amazingly it got done just in time. It probably would have taken another year or more, and at much greater cost to CSA, had it not been for Mr. Gray.

Beyond CSA Dick served soaring as SSA State Governor and record keeper for Colorado, and for a while, Wyoming as well. It did not have a governor at the time and he could help out. Always he was a roving ambassador for our sport.
For a variety of reasons Dick had a falling out with certain of the CSA crowd. With power flying absorbing more of his time and limited resources, and likely with a good dose of burnout, he decided to drop all of his soaring activity. It was a significant loss for CSA. He spent his flying time in his shared 182 making numerous long back-country trips to Idaho and Baja, Mexico with Fred, among others. Long family flying trips absorbed the rest of his flight time. Only in the past year, with terminal illness, did he begin to slow down.

Dick faced death as he did life, head on, uncomplaining and with equanimity. Shortly before he died we had a quiet moment together and I asked him, "Dick, how are you doing?" He knew exactly what I meant. His quick reply was, "On to the next great adventure." His indomitable spirit was alive and well.

Dick Gray died May 23rd shortly after his 71st birthday. In today's world of humbug, self-serving, modest standards, easy ethics, weak character and compromised integrity, Dick was a breed apart. Yet he was anything but a stuffed shirt and there are few people I would rather have a beer or three with any time. He was always looking for the "green air" in life and often found it where others only seemed to find sink.

Wherever Dick might be right now I am sure he is working to make it a better place. Whether you knew him or not, we in CSA are all better off for his having been here, and we are all at a loss for his passing.

George Davies

Posted: 11/1/1998


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