The Corner Forum
Sunday, Aug. 17, 2003
Issue #43

Enoch G. Gray III, 1924-2003

Mr. Gray, 79, who lived at 523 13th St. NE for more than 50 years, died of prostate cancer on Tuesday morning at Washington Hospital Center..

His funeral will be tomorrow (viewing 10:30 -11:30 a.m., service at 11:30, at Henry S. Washington & Sons, 4925 Nannie H. Burroughs Ave. NE, 398-6700). Interment will be at Quantico National Cemetery, after the service.

According to Mr. Gray's military papers, provided by his friend Dorothy Coble, Mr. Gray received his diploma from Dunbar High School in 1942.

He entered the Army on April 10, 1943, at Fort Myer, Va. He left for India on December 19, 1944, and arrived on January 23, 1945. He left for the United States on Feb. 17, 1946, and arrived back on March 15, 1946. He was honorably discharged on March 21, 1946, at Fort George Meade, Md.

He was a Technician Fourth Grade with the 1359th Engineer Duck Truck Company, and served 15 months as a clerk-typist in the China-Burma-India theater of operations. His listed duties: "Entered permanent items dealing with personnel on service records. Typed grievances of men in presentable form to forward to higher offices. Files all army rules and regulations received. Typed correspondence and prepared reports as directed."

Battles and campaigns listed: "Central Burma." He received a Good Conduct Medal, an American Theater Ribbon, an Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon, and a World War II Victory Ribbon.

The following comments are from friends and neighbors. If you have a comment you would like to add, please send it in.

On Tuesday, my former neighbor Marc called with the news of Enoch Gray's passing. Mr. Gray, whose nickname "The EGGMAN" was featured on the license plate of every car he ever owned, lived in our neighborhood for close to sixty years.

I last saw him in the spring, still dapper and quick, when he walked me up Thirteenth Street, pointing out the new construction atop where the community garden had been. I knew him as someone who had lived through a world war and a society compartmentalized by racism, a man who was street-wise but not so hardened as to be unable to share his wisdom.

Although nearly eighty, Mr. Gray pretty much lived as he had for decades. He fished off charter boats in the Chesapeake Bay. He delighted in his car. He both griped and gushed over his dog, Ruff, long even after Ruff died. He was as excited as a kid when showing off the latest gadget he had purchased. My particular favorite was his talking watch. He was known to brew enough dandelion wine to last through the summer.

He looked out for the neighbors and helped them in little but enormously caring ways. He was the one who cheerfully collected packages when neighbors weren't home to receive them. You knew when you came home late from work that Mr. Gray was more than likely looking out his window for the lights to come on in your house before he would allow himself to sleep.

And the neighborhood history! Mr. Gray could relay the neighborhood events from the decades following WWII as fresh as if they had happened just last week. He knew that the first man who had succeeded in knocking down Joe Lewis, at the peak of the heavyweight-boxing champion¹s career, had lived in one of the three little row houses on the corner of 13th and F Streets. He knew about the shopkeeper whose store was torched during the riots of the sixties but who, for years afterwards, let the neighbors use the empty lot where his store once stood as a community garden. Mr. Gray knew the life stories of "Bayboy" and others who hung out on the street drinking liquor from bottles wrapped in paper sacks.

But did the neighbors know that he had served in WWII and that following the war, he interviewed at Howard University where he was snubbed for having the rough demeanor of a young man returning from war? And that out of pride, he refused to return to Howard and went to work at the Pentagon instead?

Did they know his father was a teacher? Did they know that he cared for his wife until her death from Alzheimer's?

Mr. Gray cared. He looked after the young folks who, filled with hope, moved into the neighborhood in the mid 1990¹s when it was still caught in that dangerous twilight of drugs and guns. He took the time to share his stories so that we might learn a little more about the world. Thank you, sir, for the lifetime of stories you shared with us.

— Jane Mergler, of Ellicott City,
lived at 540 13th St. NE from 1992 to 1999

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What I remember most is that he was always kind enough to pick up my packages and things like that. He was just a good neighbor.

He told me quite a bit about his life — he was quite animated on the subject of D.C. voting rights and civil rights in D.C. He was in the Army in World War II and was involved in the construction of the Burma Road — basically I think they were working with the partisans or whoever it was in China that was fighting the Japanese, and they had built a supply route over the Himalayas or around the Himalayas. He got two bronze stars. He also should have gotten the Purple Heart because he was wounded in combat, but there was some bureaucratic snafu, and he was actually never awarded the Purple Heart. He served in the Army in WW II and then served for a very long time in the National Security Administration. He spent his whole working life in public service — mostly in defense issues.

He talked a lot about that neighborhood, and how it had sort of fluctuated between majority black, and majority white. He went sailing for a hobby, and fishing. He had a story about living up in Alaska during the War, I guess on his way over to Asia, and had stayed with somebody there and had always meant to go back and go fishing again with these people — it was one of the things he planned to do, and I don't know if he ever got to do it, but he was a big fisherman, and I think he offered me fish once or twice that he had caught in the Chesapeake Bay.

— Russell Hillberry, 300 block of 4th Street SE,
lived at 540 13th St. NE from 1999-2000

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He used to bring me fish and stuff, when he'd go fishing. He used to see me outside, washing cars and stuff, and he used to come over to give me some fish.

— Theiel Jackson, 1309 Emerald St. NE

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Mr. Gray would receive my UPS and postal packages so I didn't have to go get them. I thought that was really thoughtful. I'm going to miss seeing him come home from fishing every week. When Marc and I first moved here four years ago, Mr. Gray welcomed us into his home and taught us how to cut a dead fish and cook it. He was a very interesting man, and he will be missed.

— Tammi Cioffi, 536 13th St. NE

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This is Rev. Catherine Bego speaking on behalf of our community, in reference to the recent loss of Mr. Enoch Gray, who lived on 13th Street NE. Mr. Gray was a pillar in this community. Mr. Gray had been in this community for approximately 50 years. Prior to his moving here on 13th Street, his wife and her parents lived there, and after Mr. Gray finished his tour of duty in the service, he joined his wife and his in-laws at that residence.

Mr. Gray never had any children of his own, but as I reflect over his involvement in the community, Mr. Gray was every child's father. What I liked about him was that if he saw one of the children doing something, he would chastise them, he would reprimand them, and he would give them a bit of good advice. And not only would he do that, but when he saw there parent, he would report to the parent what he had observed the child doing and what advice he had given to them. So Mr. Gray was looked at as the father of the neighborhood.

We all respected him; we shall all miss him; we all loved him; and we will pray that his memories will forever be in this community, because of what he's done and the contributions that he made.

— Catherine Bego, 1308 Emerald St. NE

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He was nosy as hell, but he meant well. You didn't have to worry about nobody breaking into your house, because Mr. Gray would intervene. That's who I learned it from.

He watched out for you. I always knew Mr. Gray meant well, even though we didn't get along.

When I was moving in my house, he didn't know I was moving in. He knew my house was empty. I came around the back of the house. He ran around there with his dog Ruff and his stick, and he said, "Hey! What's going on?" I showed him my I.D.

I used to look out for him. At 3 o'clock or 4 in the morning, he'd leave out on Wednesdays, to go fishing. On Thursdays, he goes to by food. And at 12 o'clock, everyday, he'd go out to play his numbers in Maryland. 12:30 at the latest. If I didn't see him, I'd think something was wrong. He used to always make a joke, "I'm gonna move far away from you, because you bother me too much. I'm moving to Alaska."

— Rena Quallis, who lived at 525 13th St. NE
for 11 years, until May 2003

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Mr. Gray was very generous. I had known him for 21 years. He was here when I moved here. He was always willing to help out — look out for other people's houses, for other people's cars. He was a fussbucket, but he really had a big heart.

He was home during the day, so if he heard any strange noises, he would always go outside, look around, see what was going on.

Once someone busted into my backyard and stole some stuff out of there. He went out, he saw the person who did it; he was able to run them off. He received packages for me while I was at work — those kind of things. And when I went away on vacation, he would look out for my house and bring my mail in.

And he loved to feed the squirrels. I'll have to try to feed them now.

He took care of his wife until she died. She retired, and then she developed Alzheimer's, and he kept her at home and took care of her very well. He was just a nice guy all around. I'll really miss him.

— Joyce Johnson, 521 13th St. NE

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He always went out of his way to help people. When some people needed him to write a survey, or something like that, he always went out of his way to help. And he just loved people.

We have been friends for six years, and I'm really gonna miss him. I miss him now. That's my baby.

— Dorothy Coble, 5000 block of A Street SE §