Longtime Steamboat Springs resident John M. Bray passed away March 24, 2005, at his home in Oswego, Kan. He was 87.
John had lived a long, active and healthy life until just recently, when he was diagnosed with cancer. He chose hospice care and was cared for to the end by his four children and three wonderful hospice nurses.
Born July 20, 1917, in Oswego, John was the third of four sons raised on a wheat farm in southeast Kansas. He married Neva B. Foster on Nov. 25, 1941. Their union lasted 61 years and produced four children.
In 1949, John accepted a job with the P&M Coal Co. as a "catskinner" at the newly opened Osage Mine in Milner. He stayed with P&M, working at the Edna Mine in Oak Creek before finally finishing his coal-mining career at the Peabody-Seneca Mine in 1979. He and Neva retired to his family homestead in Oswego, enjoying square dancing, traveling and spending time with family.
John was active in the community, donating his skills as an operator and pilot to help with many fledgling local projects. He was a member of the town board, the water board and the early form of the airport authority that located Yampa Valley Regional Airport. He was a proud member of the United Mine Workers of America.
During World War II, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and trained as a pilot, flying C-47 troop transports. Although he participated in several paratrooper invasions, he primarily "flew gas and supplies one way and wounded soldiers the other." From May to December 1945, he flew supplies, prisoners of war and displaced persons back to their home countries.
John never lost his love of flying, and he owned several small planes. He mentored many young pilots and gave countless sightseeing rides over the Yampa Valley. He continued to fly well into his 70s.
John is survived by three daughters, Johnna Beth Barrows of Centennial, Sherry Bray of Meeker and Susan Cary of Saratoga, Wyo., and one son, Brian Bray of Hayden; 11 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Neva; his parents, Ray and Etka Bray; and three brothers, Harold, Rex and Gerald.
Services were held in Oswego on March 28, 2005.
John was a shining example of "The Greatest Generation" and will be dearly missed.
Memorial donations may be made to Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice, 3106 Main St., Parsons, KS 67357.