Obituary: Barbara Agnes Waller Gray

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BOSSIER CITY – Barbara Agnes Waller Gray, 81, passed away at LifeCare Hospital on Monday August 3, 2015. Services will be held for Barbara at 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 6, 2015 at First United Methodist Church in Bossier City, LA officiated by Reverend David Dietzel. Interment will follow at Hill Crest Memorial Park. The family will receive visitors Wednesday August 5, 2015 from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at Rose-Neath Funeral Home on Airline Drive in Bossier City, Louisiana.

Barbara was a descendent of one of the founding families of Bossier Parish. She was the daughter of Myrtle Hardy and Judge Alton Waller. Her grandparents, Pearl and Judge Tarpley Waller, came to Bossier Parish at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Her family endowed many local institutions including Waller Elementary School, Waller Baptist Church, R.V. Kerr Elementary School, and T.O. Rusheon Junior High School. She was a proud 1951 graduate of Bossier High School. Shortly after her graduation, much to the dismay of her parents, she abandoned her plans of being a sorority girl at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and eloped with the love of her life for the next sixty four years, Billy G. Gray of Marshall, Texas. Barbara and Bill then made their home in Fort Sill, Oklahoma as Bill was a member of the United States Army Aviation during the Korean War. At the completion of Bill’s assignment in Oklahoma, they returned to Barbara’s home town of Bossier City where they built their life and reared their three daughters: Cynthia Gray Sutton, Rebecca “Becky” Gray, and Melissa Gray Shepard.

Barbara’s return to Bossier Parish began a lifelong commitment to public service, public education, and her church. She was President of Waller Elementary and Rusheon Junior High Parent Teacher Associations, was an active member of the Bossier High School Band Boosters, and President of the Bossier High School Bearkat Babes Dance Team Mothers’ Club. In addition, Barbara’s civic activities included: Beta Sigma Phi Sorority, Bossier City Mothers’ Club II, and the Bossier High School Birthday Club. During those years of her life, Barbara was happy to be a homemaker and enjoyed being involved in her daughters’ activities. She was a wonderful cook whose many friends and family members anticipated “Aunt Bob’s” fried chicken and homemade pies.

Barbara’s grandmother, Pearl Taylor Waller, was a founding member of First United Methodist Church in Bossier City. Barbara continued her family’s commitment to the church through countless volunteer hours. She served as Sunday School Superintendent for fifteen years, a children’s Bible School Director, Chair of the Commission on Education, member of the Finance Committee and Administrative Board, member of the Mary Ewing Sunday School Class, choir member, counselor to the United Methodist Youth, and an active member of the United Methodist Women. A cause that was dear to her heart was early childhood education. In the 1970’s there were very few opportunities for families to enroll their children in a quality pre-school experience. Barbara, along with other church friends, founded the First United Methodist Pre-School, now known a “First Friends.” She served as the first four year old teacher for the program. Her “babies” both delighted and exhausted her daily and many of them stayed in contact with her throughout their adult lives.

In 1978 Barbara officially made history in Bossier Parish. She was the first woman elected to the Bossier Parish School Board. She served her community in that capacity for the next seventeen years which included two terms as president. Her election to the school board served as a spring board for Barbara to become even more invested in her hometown. Continuing her tradition of finding opportunities for families to enhance their children’s education, she founded the Bossier Parish School Board Scholarship Program. This program awards scholarships to graduating seniors of Bossier Parish high schools who plan to major in education.

Her school board election led to Barbara’s selection to the Bossier City Clean City Committee. The ultimate “clean freak” in her home, Barbara was able to help implement city wide programs which led to a cleaner and more beautiful Bossier. During this time in Barbara’s life, opportunity once again knocked on her door when she became a member of the Bossier City Chamber of Commerce. This gave Barbara a bigger platform to promote the growth of her hometown.

One of the most flattering moments of Barbara’s life came in 2008 when she was selected as a member of the Bossier High School Hall of Fame. Members are selected on the basis of “societal contributions of excellence, by those persons who acquired education and values while attending Bossier High.” Her acceptance speech was of course memorable as Barbara found great humor in everyday experiences, and never shied away from sharing her often hilarious opinions.

Barbara was preceded in death by her parents. She is survived by her husband and three daughters, her sister Billie Sunshine Waller Allen; five grandchildren: Lindsey Gray Todd, Stuart Blackburn, Jon Mark Shepard, Judge Alexander Shepard, and Mary Claire Shepard; two sons-in-law Malcolm Sutton Junior, and Mark Powell Shepard; nieces: Lee Sanders and husband Jerry, Marsha Herron and husband Tom, Bonnie Daniel and husband Tom; nephew Gary Gray; brother-in-law Jack Gray and wife Mimi; cousins: Patricia Waller Garvin, Susan Kirkland, Randel H. Kirkland III, Mikal Reyer, and Bob the cat. There are also a host of nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends whose names are too lengthy to list that will miss “Aunt Bob.”

Barbara will be remembered as a one of a kind, true Southern lady. She loved her community, her family and her friends. She was a kind, non-judgmental friend whose home was referred to as “the warmest place in the world.” She “never met a stranger” and could make easy conversation with anyone she ever met. She especially doted on her grandchildren whom she touted to everyone that they were all extraordinarily beautiful as well as of genius intelligence. She was fun loving with an exceptional wit and sense of humor. She and her laugh will truly be missed by all who knew her.

Honoring Barbara as pallbearers will be Harlan Beene, Trey Beene, John Brady M.D., The Honorable Judge Henry N. Brown, Gary Jack Gray, and Freddy Shewmake.

Serving as honorary pallbearers will be Randel Kirkland, D.C. Machen, The Honorable Judge Billy Ross Robinson, and JW Slack.

The family would like to extend their sincerest and deepest thanks to the staff at LifeCare Hospital.

The family suggests memorials be made to First United Methodist Church of Bossier City, 201 John Wesley Blvd., Bossier City, LA 71112; or the Bossier Parish School Board Scholarship Program, C/O Bossier Parish School Board, P.O. Box 2000, Benton, LA 71006.

While Barbara was proud of her accomplishments, the most beloved part of her life was her family and friends.