On Sunday, July 21, 2013, 150 people gathered at a local Ballroom to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Mrs. Bessie M. Gray. Mrs. Gray spent over 48 years in the field of Early Childhood Education and exemplified a level of expertise not many can claim. She has been a leader in many areas related to Early Childhood Education, the most notable of which is Gray’s Child Development Center, Inc. (the first African American led program in the State of Wisconsin accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children). Even today, few programs achieve that.
During the celebration many of Gray’s former employees, colleagues, and students shared remarks about their experiences and wished Mrs. Gray Godspeed as she transitions into the next phase of her life.
Notable attendees included Congresswoman Gwen Moore (whose two sons attended Gray’s), Senator Lena Taylor, Former State Representatives Barbara Toles and Annette Polly Williams, Dr. Robert Pavlik of Marquette University (Mrs. Gray’s Advisor), Ed Smith (the realtor who sold the Gray family their first home), Dr. Dorothy Travis (a colleague), Supervisor Grace Harris-Davis (Northwest Jurisdiction of Church of God in Christ), Supervisor Billie Jo Thomas (Southwest Jurisdiction of Church of God in Christ), Superintendent Jonathan Saffold, Sr. (Jabez District and Bishop), Mrs. Charles McClelland, and a number of family and friends from Wisconsin, Texas, Florida, and Massachusetts.
The theme for the luncheon was “Mother to Many, Teacher to More, and Mentor to All.” Each person who spoke shared their experiences at Gray’s and how those experiences continue to influence them.
One of the first three students Mrs. Gray had in her child care program was Dara Atandare who is currently pursuing a Doctorate in education.
Atandare shared that she felt part of the family at Gray’s and added that she continues to feel that way. Alderwoman Milele Coggs called Mrs. Gray the best child care provider. Proclamations from the White House were presented, and from Congresswoman Gwen Moore, Governor Scott Walker, Mayor Tom Barrett, State Representative Mandela Barnes, Common Council President Willie Hines, County Supervisor Khalif Rainey, and a personal letter from long-time friend and colleague Secretary of the Department of Children and Families, Eloise Anderson.
There were also many local child care providers in attendance who received their start by Mrs. Gray through their training, employment, and mentoring.
Mrs. Gray was also lauded with many cards and gifts to share her special day and will receive a DVD with thank you accolades from many who were in attendance. One of the speakers asked us to “Give her flowers so she can see and smell them” and that’s what we did. Congratulations, Mrs. Gray – we can’t wait to learn what you have planned next.