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James Alan Gray was born on July 7, 1958 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Stanley and Catherine Gray. He was the second of four children, which included an older brother Richard Wayne, born March 25th, 1957 died May 16th, 1959, Douglas Richard, born April 4th 1960 and a sister Cynthia Marie, born September 8th 1961.

The family moved to Eau Gallie, Florida (now Melbourne) in 1961, where his dad had accepted a teaching position at Melbourne High School.

Jim had a strong inclination towards music and literature at an early age and studied the piano while attending Sabal Elementary. He was a member of the school patrol, the Sabaleers concert choir and played little league baseball for Hobb’s Electric, where he was chosen to play for the All-Star Team in his last year.

By the time he entered Johnson Junior High in 1970, he was consumed by music. He was part of the Concert Choir where he was chosen to attend the All-State Competition in his freshman year, conducted by the late Robert Shaw. He was a solid student and brought home above average grades, although he talked and carried on in class to the pleasure and anxiety of his teachers. He managed to escape the turmoil of the late 60’s and early 70’s and says for the most part stayed on the straight and narrow.

By the time he entered Eau Gallie High School, he was an enthusiastic singer, with interests in surfing and water-skiing, tennis and bicycling, reading and writing… and a girl. They met in 1973 at the local skating rink and became each other’s crush. She was a year behind him and had just started the 9th grade. A beach girl with long, brown hair and deep brown eyes. Her name was Debbie Godbold and that was that. Aside from a year between 1977 and 1978, they have been together since that September night in 1973.

In the Spring of 1975, he was employed by the Walt Disney Company for the two week break over Easter and then full-time for the summer. By the Fall, excited about his senior year, a friend convinced him to ride over to a “casting call” that Disney was auditioning for a new crop of Walt Disney Characters needed for the expanding demands of the park. He, along with his friend, auditioned and were hired as weekend characters. At the time there was no better job in the park than to be a Walt Disney Character and everyone involved felt the same way.

To this day, Jim feels that the years he spent with the Disney organization and its people had the greatest influence and the most profound effect on his personality and attitudes. He considers that time almost halcyon and still maintains close relationships with the people that he feels influenced his life.

He graduated from Eau Gallie High in 1976 and moved to Orlando, where he spent the next two years working full-time as a character in the water ski show, doing parades and special events and even an Eastern Airlines commercial as Peter Pan. He enrolled in Valencia Community College as a freshman in 1978, where he studied Creative Writing, Philosophy and Religion.

He and Debbie had broken up a year after the move to Orlando, but he received a birthday card from her on July 7, 1977. Numerology played a part in that (7/7/77) and since it had always been their lucky number (they got together on September 7th) he called her up. She had graduated the previous month from Satellite High and was living in Tallahassee, ready to start Florida State in the Fall. Without any reliable transportation, he took the Greyhound bus to Tallahassee and spent a nice weekend catching up and discussing the future. That trip led to another and another and then several trips with Deb driving down to Orlando and after a year of long distance trips, unaffordable phone bills and tearful goodbyes, something had to give…it did.

In March 1979, Jim said goodbye to Orlando and headed for a new life with Deb in Tallahassee. They rented a small efficiency apartment off campus and were married on September 7, 1980 at Maclay Gardens, 7 years to the day after that September night.

He had secured a job with Stereo Sales on a previous trip to Tallahassee and was enrolled for the Fall semester at Tallahassee Community College where he graduated with an Associate Arts degree in 1980. He transferred to Florida State in the Fall, took a job with a new start-up, The Stereo Store in late 1980 and graduated with a degree in English Literature and a minor in Humanities in 1982. Although he didn’t publish anything until the Fall of 1990, he was writing vigorously in the evenings and keeping a journal which he had started back in his first year of community college.

After graduation, he assumed the position of manager with The Stereo Store and became a principal owner in 1984. He left in June 1988 to start his own custom design and installation business, which he still operates today. Jim Gray Designs has done installations in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. He is a founding member of CEDIA (Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association) and celebrated his 26th year in June 2014. They specialize in the design and installation of fine audio and video systems for the home.

2014 also marked his 41st year with Debra and 34 years of marriage. They have no children and no pets… and very few regrets.

copyright 2014
Wildwood Days Publishing