Mary Jane “Gray” Richardson, born March 13, 1930, entered the joy of her Lord on April 16, 2016.
A longtime resident of El Dorado, she was born to Edwin Payson and Marie Heilman Gray in Tiffin, Ohio on March 13, 1930, where her father was president of the Gray and White Co., a large wholesaler of poultry, butter and eggs, and “one of the most widely known executives in the business in the United States.” In 2009, she moved to Birmingham, Ala., to be near her son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.
Gray found her greatest joy and purpose in being Mother to her two children, Alice and Ed. She enjoyed 19 wonderful years married to the love of her life, B. David Richardson, longtime treasurer of Murphy Oil Corp., and delighted in entertaining international bankers in their home who came to El Dorado to negotiate oil drilling financing in the North Sea and other places around the world. Always an elegant, stylish dresser, and a blond “with a little help,” she loved to travel, was quick-witted with a dry sense of humor, and always told you exactly what she thought. She attended high school at Ward-Belmont in Nashville, Tenn., and graduated from Tiffin High School in Tiffin, Ohio before attending college at Mary Baldwin in Virginia, where she majored in music and was a marvelous pianist.
In 1950, she married Joseph Burnam Hurley and became an Arkansan, living in Camden and Morrilton, before moving to El Dorado in 1957, where she and Joe established the Hurley Printing and Stationery Co. Gray was active in El Dorado community life serving in the Junior League and Parent Teacher Association. A lover of music, she was an avid supporter of the South Arkansas Arts Center, the South Arkansas Symphony, and the Little Theatre.
She was a deeply committed Christian, baptized and professing her faith in Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior in the First Presbyterian Church of Tiffin. Gray was active for over 50 years in the First Presbyterian Church of El Dorado where she served as a deacon, elder, circle chairperson, played piano for Sunday School, and happily rang bells in the handbell choir. Gifted with a beautiful voice, to stand next her while she sang a hymn was itself a worshipful inspiration.
She sang occasionally for major works performances such as Handel’s Messiah in combined church and community choirs. She continued as a member of her El Dorado church until the time of her death. Her very last activity in El Dorado, the evening before moving to Birmingham in 2009, was to drive herself to First Presbyterian Church for the worship committee meeting of which she was a fixture! In Birmingham, she became an affiliate member of South Highland Presbyterian Church where her son serves as senior pastor.
Gray was preceded in death by her parents; her brother, Edward Payson Gray, who was among the first casualties at the Guadalcanal Battle during the Second World War; her Aunt Clara Heilman, who raised her following her parents’ and brother’s deaths;her Aunt Mildred Heilman Crump, her four Gray uncles, William Daniel, Marvin Lewis, Hume Ralph, Paul Garnett; her daughter, Alice Gans Hurley Averill; her beloved husband; B. David Richardson; and stepson, Chris Richardson.
Gray is survived by her son, the Rev. Dr. Edwin Gray Hurley and her incredible daughter-in-law, Gayle Dunn Hurley; grandchildren, Stuart Winfield Hurley, Peter Gray Hurley, Catherine Elizabeth Hurley Mize (Hunter), Dalvin Samuel Averill Jr.; stepdaughters, Caroline Richardson Hammond, Dana Richardson Ibbotson, and Becky Richardson Burton; and five step-grandchildren, Haley and Brittain Ibbotson, Tanner and Ethan Hammond, and Brent Ponder.
Losing her immediate family by the age of 13, Gray became especially close to a number of her cousins and their families, including Mary Alice Dunscombe (Tom), Paul G. Gray (Patti), Betsy Booker (David), Pauline Appleton Hudkins (Lee), Nadine Appleton Vanorsdel, Bob Appleton and the late Maureen, Bill Appleton (Linda). She treasured her close friends, especially her lifelong spiritual sister Prudy Yocum Herring, as well as Dottie Borden, Kat Young, Robin Trimble and Beverly Yocum.
In 2002, Gray attended her 50th reunion at Mary Baldwin, and responded on a reunion questionnaire saying what is occurring in my life now is, “Trying to adjust to life as a widow - loving my son and grandchildren, my church, and cherished friends, and wishing for trips, trips, trips.”
A memorial service was held at South Highland Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, at 4 p.m. on April 19, with the Rev. Dr. Jim Truesdell and the Rev. Dr. Larry Michael officiating, followed by a reception in the newly renovated church halls.
There will be a visitation/reception in the Fellowship Hall of First Presbyterian Church, El Dorado, at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 23, followed by a service of Witness to the Resurrection at 2 p.m., with the Rev. John Trimble Mabray and the Rev. Patrick Fleming officiating. Burial will follow at Arlington Cemetery.
Pallbearers will be Stuart Hurley, Peter Hurley, Dalvin Averill Jr., Hunter Mize, Richard Wharton, and Jeff Dwight. Honorary pallbearers will be George Morgan Jr., John D. Trimble, Charles Thomas, Robert Ellzey, Don Barrow, and Kenny Vanhook.
Gray’s family is deeply grateful for the extraordinary compassionate care extended to her by caregivers, Anastacia Kyende, Flossie L. Canty, and Esther Mogaka, and by the pastors, deacons and elders of South Highland Presbyterian Church.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to First Presbyterian Church, 300 E. Main St., El Dorado, AR 71730; South Highland Presbyterian Church, 2035 Highland Ave., S., Birmingham, AL 35205; or to Vera Lloyd Presbyterian Children’s Home, 1501 N. University, Little Rock, AR 72207.
An online guest registry will be available at www.youngsfuneralhome.com.