Leslie Francis Gray (1922-2022) A Life Well Lived

Les Gray, long time parishioner of St Kilian's, Bendigo died on 17 January 2022 in his one hundredth year. He was one of the few surviving veterans who served in World War 2.
Les was born at Tunstall (Nunawading) and was one of four brothers in the Gray family. This was a rural area at the time. He grew up in the aftermath of the First World War and the severe economic and social problems of the Great Depression. 
His initial education was at local schools and then from 1934 at Box Hill High school. Amid the difficulties of the time, he somehow was able to spend 1938-39 completing his Leaving  Certificate at Xavier College. By this time, war had broken out in Europe and Les' first job was a clerical one in the Munitions Department in Melbourne. By late 1941/early 1942, Australia was in a precarious security situation as Japanese forces overran south-east Asia, the Philippines, the East Indies and New Guinea and several places in northern Australia came under attack. There was general mobilisation of manpower with Les joining the air crew in the Royal Australian Air Force where he commenced training as a Navigator. The training was in various parts of Australia and extending to the UK in March 1944. He later saw active service in the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East before returning to Australia in November 1945. When he was discharged from the Air Force in Feb 1946, he held the rank of Warrant Officer.
LesGray2bLes then took up a scholarship for returned servicemen, provided by the Commonwealth, and undertook an Arts degree at the University of Melbourne. This led to a career as a teacher in the Education Department of Victoria. His primary role was to teach English and Mathematics but, in that era, teachers had to be versatile and prepared to teach a broad range of subjects. In 1951, Les married Elaine Smith in Sydney. It was to be a long and happy marriage ending only with Elaine's death in 2009, and during which they had eight children. 
Les' teaching career was in schools east of Melbourne, and in the early 1960s at Maryborough. The family moved to Bendigo in 1966, where Les took up a position at the newly formed White Hills Technical School. From the early 1970s, he was Principal at Castlemaine Technical School where he remained until his retirement in the late 1980s. Some of his time at Castlemaine was particularly stressful owing to the militant industrial action being undertaken by teachers’ unions at this time.
Les was an active member of the church throughout his life. At university he was prominent in Catholic life and involved in a movement which later became known as Catholic Action. He participated in parish life in te various places he lived and was a key parishioner at St Kilian’s in Bendigo for fifty years. During this period he was also a member of the choir at Sacred Heart Cathedral. He gave generous financial support to St Vincent de Paul Society until very recent years. 
Les was interested in current affairs and a keen letter writer to newspapers for many years. He had a great interest in music and singing, interests which were also followed by some of his children.
Les is survived by five of his children, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Family was a primary concern throughout his life and in his long teaching career he had a beneficial influence on the lives of many students. He was regarded as a good friend by large numbers of people with whom he had contact. His passing brings to an end a generation of Australians who built this country and defended it in wartime and whom we shall not see again.
Les' Funeral Mass was celebrated at St Kilian’s. May he rest in peace.

Prepared by Mal Nolan with the assistance of the Gray family.