Clifford Gray Jr. was a decisive, self-made kind of guy.
He took the know-how he got from helping run his father's Kensington auto-body shop and used it to start an appraisal company in South Jersey. Although not a college graduate, he pushed his way to three terms as a state legislator from Philadelphia.
Mr. Gray, 77, an avid Eagles fan, was losing his fight with cancer as the underdog Birds were battling their way to a Super Bowl win over the New England Patriots on Feb. 4. He died just after midnight Feb. 6 of respiratory failure at his home in Villas, Cape May County, N.J. In some unusual end-of-life planning, he specified that his ashes be put in an Eagles-green urn bearing the inscription: "Ain't We Grand!"
"Cliff, in his final moments, did get to enjoy and witness the Eagles win the Super Bowl," said his wife, Mary Ellen "Marcy" Gray. His wishes will be honored, she said.
"We are doing an urn for him, and it is Eagles green," confirmed Cape May funeral director Dennis Spilker. The inscription will be as Mr. Gray specified.
A Kensington native with the equivalent of a high school education, Mr. Gray was elected in 1976 to three two-year terms as the state representative from the 180th House District, which encompasses the bulk of West Kensington, including parts of Juniata Park, Fairhill, Harrowgate, and Tioga Park. The borders were different when Mr. Gray served, his wife said.
He served as a Democrat from 1977 to 1982, when he ran unsuccessfully for a fourth term against James M. McIntyre.
Mr. Gray had lived in Kensington before moving to Cape May County in 1986. He moved because he needed a change and wanted to start a business.
During his 77 years, Mr. Gray "wore many hats," his wife said. While a Philadelphian, he owned and operated Gray's Auto Body and Beverage Co. on Dauphin Street. The company was founded in 1938 by his father, Clifford Gray Sr. It was sold in the late 1980s.
Mr. Gray established the Cliff Gray Appraisal Service on Bayshore Road in Villas in 1986. He appraised cars trucks, boats, and heavy equipment. His wife and sons, Bill and Randy, later joined him in the business which is still in operation.
Mr. Gray was known for his sense of humor and his love of being Irish, his wife said. He was a golfer and a member of the Wildwood Country Club for many years.
He also enjoyed fishing in his motorboat boat, the "Marcy G," named for his wife. His love of the sport began when he fished as a boy of six with his grandfather in Fortescue in Downe Township, Cumberland County.
As an adult, Mr. Gray's favorite pastime was taking his family on boating and fishing expeditions in the waters off Cape May.
Besides his wife of 47 years, Mr. Gray is survived by children Kimberly Spicer, Cliff III, Bill, Anthony, Randy, Coleen Morey, and Shannon Bucko and 13 grandchildren.