April, 28, 1926 – Jan. 16, 2017
Like many World War II veterans, Kevin M. Cray was proud of his service but rarely talked much about it.
After he was hospitalized last month in the hospice facility at Buffalo’s Veterans Administration Hospital, the Navy veteran sat down with one of his grandsons, Brian Cray, for a tape-recorded discussion about his war experiences.
Mr. Cray talked about the carnage he witnessed at the Normandy beach on D-Day in June 1944, the proud moment when he shook hands with Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, the sea battles he participated in as a crew member of the destroyer USS Baldwin, and the poverty he observed on the island of Formosa, now known as Taiwan. He also spoke about other wartime experiences he had rarely discussed in any detail.
His family is thankful to have that recording. Mr. Cray died on Jan. 16, 2017, after a long illness. The long-time Amherst resident was 90.
“It’s pretty common to people of that generation…that they don’t like to talk about the war,” said his oldest son, Mark Cray. “Even though he died of asbestosis, an illness he contracted during the war, he never complained or felt sorry for himself. He knew that there were a lot of people in that war who made out a lot worse than he did.”
Mr. Cray grew up in the Bailey-Kensington neighborhood of Buffalo and attended Bennett High School. He enlisted in the Navy in January 1944 and served as a fireman and water tender aboard the USS Baldwin in both the Atlantic and Pacific war theaters. He was discharged in May 1946.
Always handy with automobiles, he worked 30 years in local car dealerships, starting as a detailer and working his way up to service manager. He also spent several years running his own Buffalo business, Cray Auto Sales. He then went to work at the U.S. Post Office on William Street, where he worked from 1975 until he retired in 1988.
Mr. Cray loved spending time with family, especially his nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He also enjoyed furniture refinishing and grooming the yard of his home to perfection.
He is survived by his wife of nearly 66 years, the former Joan E. Schneider; two daughters, Kathleen Callahan and Carolyn Graff; and three sons, Mark, Kevin Jr. and Michael.
Mr. Cray was a long-time member of St. Leo the Great Church, 885 Sweet Home Road, Amherst, where a Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 9:15 a.m. Friday.
- Dan Herbeck