Lynn Gray is on the right in each photo, with his friends Craig Jackson (center) and Fred Risker (left). They are photographed in Detroit at their 8th grade graduation in 1962, and at Fred’s mother’s funeral in 1987.
Lynn Gray was a long-time member of American Academy of Family Physicians and Michigan Academy of Family Physicians and member of the Highland Avenue Church in Benton Harbor, Mich. He practiced family medicine and emergency medicine for more than 40 years in southwest Michigan and was affiliated with Lakeland Regional Health System, where he served as medical director for diversity and health equity. He was posthumously awarded the Michigan Family Physician of the Year shortly after his death on June 13, 2020. This tribute was written by Craig Jackson, dean of Loma Linda University’s School of Allied Health Professions, and a friend of Gray for 63 years.
The year was 1957 and a skinny kid moved to Detroit, Michigan, from Nashville, Tennessee, and is enrolled in Berean Elementary School held in the City Temple Seventh-day Adventist church and the first kid who introduces himself to me is Lynn Gray. From there we become fast friends.
We spent a lot of time together, along with Fred Risker and Peter Hall, and we would connect to ride the bus to school together; we would time our transfers so we could ride the last bus to school. Weekends were sometimes at each other’s home with our model planes and tanks, along with our Army figures. Fred’s father was a train aficionado who had a great train layout and we would marvel at it when were there.
Well, fast forward to 1962, and at the mature age of 13 we graduate from Berean. Lynn goes to Cass Technical High School, a prestigious premier high school in Detroit; I attend boarding school at Adelphian Academy in Holly, Michigan but not much changes. We still find time for our friendship during holidays and on short breaks from high school every six weeks.
After high school/academy graduations we are back together again at Andrews University. And here is where our friendship ends.
One night—late! —an argument ensued (I have no idea what it was about, but it involved a lot of yelling and screaming, pushing, and shoving, and door slamming! We must have awakened the entire wing of the Meier Hall! I stomped off to my room and sulk. At some point I calm down and realize the ridiculousness of our situation and leave my room going back to Lynn’s. As I get down the hall, I see Lynn making his way toward my room. We meet in the middle at the common space on the wing and embrace offering our apologies. And that is when our friendship ended, and a lifetime brotherhood began.
Summers were spent working at various jobs in Detroit: Bethlehem Steel, Chrysler Stamping Plant, Zug Island (do not ask! It was dirty and had to do with steel production). Yet, we found time to spend with friends at the park, birthday parties, and any other excuse to get together.
In the summer of 1968, quite spontaneously, we decided to go on a camping trip through northern Michigan, into the Upper Peninsula, across the Sault Sainte Marie locks, across northern Ontario, coming down through Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, and back home. Four glorious days together, sleeping under the stars. A cherished memory of doing nothing but being together.
After college and graduate school, we marry and had children. We made a pact early on that we would call each other at the birth of our children, no matter the hour, and we kept that promise! It did not matter: 1, 2, or 3 o’clock in the morning, those calls were made! We laughed about it every time it came up, even as our children were adults.
In 1982, our family moved to southern California where my wife and I took positions in the Department of Social Work at Loma Linda University Medical Center and Lynn and his wife Debbie settled comfortably in Berrien Springs. It never stopped anything because we would come to Detroit several times a year to visit my wife Victoria’s parents and always spend time with friends. If Lynn and Debbie could not come to Detroit, we would talk on the phone; always staying in contact.
In 2019, we had a reunion of sorts in Detroit with Lynn and Debbie, Charles and Miriama Bracken, Daryl and Sandy Moseley, Wendell and Linda Lawrence, Hayward and Enid Penny, and Dale and Dorita West. It was a hilarious time of looking at old photo and teasing each other. These were good times always to be remembered. We vowed we would get together more often because we are getting older and nothing is guaranteed. How prophetic that turned out to be.
In late October/early November, I get a call from Lynn suspecting liver cancer. We talk for over a half-hour while he is driving. I chide him a bit, trying to relieve the tension of the moment, telling him he is not such a hotshot diagnostician (knowing full well how great he really is; but I try). We agree to talk again after tests are completed and the results are available. When the diagnosis is confirmed, our journey of brotherhood continues with frequent phone calls of hope, realism, and prayer. He and Debbie are in our prayers twice daily.
Throughout all these memories, the one that stands above all the rest occurred on Sunday, March 15, 2020. I fly from southern California to South Bend, Indiana, and arrive at 3:30 in the afternoon. I spend all day and night with him and leave Monday afternoon, March 16 to return home. That is the last time I saw him. COVID-19 made it impossible for me to return; plus, I was needed on campus to manage and lead through the crisis that would befall all universities and colleges. We talked the last time two weeks before he died. I have kept his message in my voicemail because I never want to forget his voice; and I will never forget my brother.