Beautiful Memory Alive
my 25-year-old coworker, Charlie, and I sit down together, he
talks about how many of his friends weddings he attended
in the last year; I seem to talk about how many funerals of my
friends parents I have attended. The circle of life is truly
an interesting one, with many twists and turns along the way.
At age 43, I became a middle-aged orphan when my mother passed away
last fall. I had been blessed with two wonderful parents who were
perfect role models. Now I face one of the biggest challenges I
have ever undertaken carrying on their beliefs to the next
I was truly overwhelmed by the level of support I received from
alumni, friends, and coworkers from throughout the state and country,
a testament to the tremendous College of Agriculture family. That
same sense of family led me to apply for a job with the College
over 21 years ago.
My father, Paul Gray, was a county Extension agent for agriculture
for more than 30 years; he also was an alumnus of the College of
Agriculture. His occupation wasnt just his job; it was his
hobby, too. He loved what he did and those he worked with.
Thanks to our family farm, my mother was able to stay at home to
raise my sister and me while Dad spent his days, nights, and weekends
helping the people of Franklin and Owen Counties.
When I was a senior in college, my father was diagnosed with cancer.
While in intensive care, he averaged over 30 visitors a day. People
from all walks of life came to see him. They always said, Paul
Gray is my friend, and then shared the many things my father
had helped them accomplish.
At that time I decided to become an Extension agent. I thought it
would be wonderful to have a job that I enjoyed and in which I could
help people improve their lives. As my father told me, You
may not become rich at the bank, but you will never miss a paycheck
and the rewards will be immeasurable.
About five years ago, my mother sold the farm that had been in our
family for more than 100 years. That same farm thanks to
the profits from the sale of corn, tobacco, and cattle had
put my sister and me through college with no bills to pay when we
The profits from the sale of the farm were invested to put her grandchildren
through college. Then my mother sent a check to the College of Agriculture
and asked me to decide how the money should be used. We decided
that since it was the farm that had put two children of an Extension
agent through college, it would be fitting for the Shan Stone and
Paul H. Gray Scholarship Endowment Fund to help children of Extension
agents attend the UK College of Agriculture.
In my current position as coordinator of the Ag Alumni Association,
I have worked with many people in helping them establish scholarships
in the College but, thanks to my parents, I now get to see how truly
wonderful it feels to be a donor. The scholarship has given my sister
and me a means to remember our parents and have their names and
their belief in helping others live forever.
Thanks to many friends, we will soon have a bench and tree placed
in my mothers name at the UK Arboretum. As we sit on the bench,
I will be able to tell my daughter many wonderful stories about
the two people who taught me how to make this world a better place.
I hope some day each of you can find a way to share the memories
of the special people in your life. It is truly the best gift you
will ever give to yourself.