Dr. Stella Clifford Gray, 96, of East Boothbay, died peacefully on May 31, 2016 at the Lincoln Home, Newcastle with loving family by her side.
Stella was born on December 4, 1919 to Dr. Harold Burton Clifford and Gladys Mower Clifford, in St. Albans, Maine. She grew up in Boothbay Harbor, where her father was the Superintendent of Schools from 1925 to 1956.
Stella attended local schools, graduating from Boothbay High School in 1937 as salutatorian. She enjoyed music, playing both the cello and the piano. She was also known for her lovely soprano singing voice. After a year at Eastman School of Music, Stella transferred to Bates College, her parents’ Alma Mater, where she majored in English.
After graduating in 1941, Stella taught at a Maine high school for three years. She was then offered a position at University of Maine at Farmington, which was at that time a teachers’ college.
It was there she discovered her love of college teaching. During the summers, Stella worked towards her M.A. at the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College.
In 1948, she taught a year at Westhampton, in Richmond, Virginia, before being awarded a full scholarship at the University of Wisconsin in Madison to study for her Ph.D. in American literature. Stella’s dissertation on Constance Fenimore Woolson was the first comprehensive study of the nineteenth century American author.
In Madison, she met her husband, Charles F. Gray, a Wisconsin native, who was studying on the G.I. Bill. They married in 1953, and had two of their four children, Camilla and Clifford.
In 1959, they moved to Charles’ hometown of Kenosha, Wisconsin, where they had two more children, Robert and Peter. The family attended St. Thomas Aquinas Church, where Stella was the first female lay reader at Mass.
Stella taught at the Kenosha Extension of the University of Wisconsin. She was instrumental in helping to develop the Extension into a four-year branch of the University, which then became known as UW-Parkside.
Dr. Gray taught English composition, speech, and literature, and also served as chairperson of the Humanities Division. Many students remember Dr. Gray’s beautiful readings of literature during class. She also inspired many of her pupils to become teachers.
Her success as an educator was noted when she was inducted into the Southeastern Wisconsin Educators Hall of Fame, the first college teacher so honored. Upon her retirement, the University created the Stella C. Gray Teaching Excellence Award.
After the death of her husband in 2001, Stella returned to her beloved home in East Boothbay. There she pursued her interests of reading, knitting, playing the piano, collecting sea glass and antique spoons, and enjoying the company of friends and family. She attended East Boothbay Methodist Church.
Stella was predeceased by her husband, Charles F. Gray, and her brother, George Edwin Clifford.
Stella is survived by her sister, Flora Clifford Majumder, of Northampton, Massachusetts; her daughter, Camilla Mower Gray, of Pine Plains, New York; her sons, Charles Clifford Gray of Kenosha, Wisconsin, Robert Kenneth Gray and his wife, Linda, of Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Peter Edwin Gray and his wife, Karen, of Jacksonville, Florida; and her son-in-law, Stan Klein, of Chicago, Illinois. She is also survived by her grandchildren, Amanda Marie Gray, Brandon Scott Gray, Ivy Charlotte Gray-Klein, and Daniel Robert Gray, plus her stepgrandchildren, Kimberly and Kenneth Krebs. Stella had one great-granddaughter, Lyra Gray.
A memorial service will be held later in the summer, date and time to be determined.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorial donations in Stella’s name be made to the Boothbay Region YMCA, P.O. Box 500, Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538.
Hall’s of Boothbay has care of the arrangements. To extend online condolences, light a candle for Stella, or to share a story of pictures, visit her Book of Memories at www.hallfuneralhomes.com.