The Community is invited to join family, friends, former employees, and former students to celebrate the life and work (and retirement) of Bessie Marie Gray on Sunday, July 21, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. Mrs. Gray is well and looking forward to the next phase of her life.
Please join her and her children Felicia Bourrage, Wanda Montgomery, Percy Gray, Jr., Bryant Gray, Mark Gray, Claudia Gray, Zachary Gray, Tammy Saffold, LaSonia McGee, Mildred Coby and other family, friends, long-time employees, former colleagues, and children with their families.
The theme for the event is: “Mother to Many, Teacher to More and Mentor to All”. The opportunity to record video greetings for a DVD card will begin at 1pm.
If you’ve lived in Milwaukee for the past 40 years and used child care, you might have been fortunate enough to have your child(ren) at Grays. Or the staff at the center you did use might have been trained by Mrs. Gray. Or the director of your program might have gotten their start at Gray’s under her leadership.
Mrs. Gray not only started her child care center in her home, but as the center grew she was able to bring most of her own children into the business to help with the growth opportunities.
In 1973, the US Bank building was completed and “Schoolhouse Rock” premiered on ABC-TV. And that was the year Mrs. Bessie Gray began her own child care program. She needed to provide care for her ninth child, LaSonia, and thought it would be best to be a stay-at- home mom.
At the time, the Gray’s had purchased a large home on 3rd Street (now Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive ) from well-known black doctor, Dr. John Terry.
Terry had built the home that provided private office space for his patients and living quarters for his family and him.
With nine children ranging in age from infant to 14, the Gray family could use the space! Over the years, Gray’s grew from that one location to 14 throughout Milwaukee County, including at four MATC school campuses.
It was in 1991 that Gray’s purchased a property on North Teutonia Avenue from the Sisters of Sorrowful Mother.
After providing services for children and families for about three years in the new location, the Sisters gifted the property to Gray’s.
For the next twenty years, Gray’s would operate out of that facility until the decision to close in 2011.
Mrs. Gray has given so much to this Community through her love and care of thousands of children. There were times that parents could not afford to pay the child care fees, but Mrs. Gray knew they were working hard to get their education or maintain stable employment and regularly absorbed their costs.
Over the years, Gray’s achieved many awards. Some of the most notable was accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) as the first African American-led program in the State – which accreditation was achieved three times.
In the early 1990’s, Gray’s was also selected as one of the State’s Centers of Excellence and was awarded a contract of $1.5 million to promote quality and share their experience and expertise with other programs in the City of Milwaukee.
Mrs. Gray has also received numerous awards over the years including: National Exchange Magazine, Milwaukee Magazine, State of Wisconsin–Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award, Milwaukee Times Black Excellence Award, TV6 Jefferson Award, and Black Child Development Institute–Milwaukee Affiliate/ Child Care category. Mrs. Gray is also the author of the poem “The Will to Do” ©.
The cost for Mrs. Gray’s retirement event is $50.00 per person.
To secure a reservation, please contact Ms. Wanda Montgomery at 262-434-0699 or email at email@example.com. And help us share the word with former children and employees of Grays.
We hope to see Milwaukee come out and celebrate this wonderful woman who has given so much to our community