Periodically, the Kiwanis Club of Kirkland honors a person in our community for service he or she has given that goes above and beyond the call in helping make Kirkland better place to live .
On March 30, 2015 the KCK honored Kirkland resident, Bob Gray, for his many years of selfless giving of his time and resources to the Kirkland Community and surrounding areas.
Bob’s service to the community started when he retired at 55. He got involved working with kids at a pre-school in Kirkland and that set him on a path of service and giving for the next 35 years. As an example of his caring and generosity, Bob personally sponsored several young adults in our area through college– an opportunity they otherwise wouldn’t have had.
Gray’s daughter, Deb O’Brien said, “Losing his father as a child and his service to his country dictated his philosophy” – that of reaching out and helping where he saw a need.
Some years ago, Gray worked as a volunteer with the Farm Youth Outreach Program, helping to prove food, clothes and other necessities to children and their families in dire need. It was through this program that he linked up with Attain Housing --then known as KITH (www.attainhousing.org) . It was a perfect match for Bob, and KITH embraced his love for kids and his desire to make people happy. He was soon included in the KITH ”family” and was considered the ‘grandpa’ that entertained kids at all their functions. Last September, Bob’s daughter gave him a 90th birthday party and he specifically requested no gifts. Instead, he asked that donations be made to Attain Housing. Bob’s Birthday raised about $2,000 for the organization!
For a number of years Gray volunteered with the Forgotten Children’s Fund (www.forgottenchildrensfund.org), an organization dedicated to making Christmas a happy time for many children and their families in need. Each year FCF has Santa and his elves deliver gifts and food baskets to many families in the Seattle area. Bob could also been seen volunteering at M-Bar-C Ranch (www.m-bar-c.org) , a ranch owned and operate by FCF. It is located on Whidbey Island and is a camp-like setting for disabled children. The Ranch provides a western adventure in a safe and enriching environment for a wide variety of children. Bob helped brighten the lives for many children and their families through Forgotten Children during the holidays and at M-Bar-C Ranch during days spent at this special camp.
To many in Kirkland, he is fondly known as ‘Bob the Balloon Man’. He is famous for his balloon art and mostly his balloon animals. He has often said while on a walk around Kirkland, “My job is to give biscuits to dogs and balloons to kids and ‘pretty women’. If it makes them smile, it makes me smile.” He has spent countless hours at children’s parties and other festivities doing his balloon magic and bringing smiles.
Gray’s commitment to serve also lead him to volunteer with Hope link (www.hope-link.org) . He assisted with collecting day old produce from QFC and delivering it to the food bank in Kirkland several times a week.
Not only is Bob a hero in our community, but he was also a war hero in WWII. In January of this year, U.S. Senator Patty Murray awarded Gray with The Combat Infantryman Badge, as well as a Bronze Star Medal With Valor for his bravery in France the last days of the war. Recently he was recognized by the French Embassy in Seattle for his valor. In receiving this award, Gray said ”the honor goes to the thousands of soldiers that gave their lives for their country” - he accepted it on their behalf.
Bob talked a lot of his days of service to his country. He said “A veteran is a person who signs up with his country for an amount of time up to and even including his life.”
As we were packing up to leave, Bob invited us to his room to show us a quilt his granddaughter had made for him. The quilt spanned his 90 years of life with smiles and happy memories. Thank you Bob for what you have given us – smiles and laughs and tireless hours of service to our community and years of service to our country
Bob Gray – you truly are an Every Day Hero.