Elizabeth Gray enjoyed adventurous pastimes like piloting a plane and skiing, but her real passions were her children and her home, says her husband, Thomas Gray.
Elizabeth Gray, who also had a 22-year career as an award-winning senior customer service representative for the Daily Herald, died recently at age 70.
"Her generosity was boundless," said her husband. "She was generous with her time and her caring and enthusiasm for all the children."
Gray was the mother of sons Joseph and Anthony and stepmother to Keith, Michelle and Pamela.
She started skiing in high school but gave it up when she became a mom.
"She taught me to ski, but after she gave birth to our children she quit. She said, 'I can't afford a broken leg,'" Thomas Gray said.
She did encourage her sons to take up skiing, however. Joseph Gray eventually moved to Colorado for better access to the slopes, and Anthony Gray was on a Wilmot Mountain ski team.
By the time her children were in their teens, however, her adventurous spirit re-emerged.
Her husband encouraged her to take up flying.
"She went bowling with a group of lady friends, and I suggested she might want to do something a little more exciting," he said.
"She was very proud of her achievement, and soloing was a very big event in her life."
Over the 41 years of their marriage the Grays lived in Des Plaines, Arlington Heights and Rolling Meadows.
Her supervisors at the Daily Herald appreciated Elizabeth Gray's dedication to the job, as well as her contribution to camaraderie.
She decorated co-workers' desks for important milestones like birthdays, retirements and holidays, said Mary Ann Basak, customer service manager.
And she exuded this generosity and efficiency very early in the morning.
"She opened the office at 5 a.m. and got things rolling, helping branch managers in the field, so when we came in we were ready to take calls," Basak said.
"She was very dedicated. She would watch what was going on and volunteer to help, such as coming in on Saturday if we were in a bind."
Basak and Jim Galetano, senior vice president of circulation, said Gray could take as many as 100 customer calls in a shift. She also had the skill and empathy to present workable solutions to subscribers who called to cancel their subscriptions.
"She was very respectful of subscribers," Galetano said. "She could talk to a variety of personalities and was able to work with them. And despite the challenges faced in the customer service department, she always had a lot of energy and enthusiasm and a smile."