Wilma Gray

Obituary of Wilma Gray

Wilma Felton-Gray (nee Lewis) passed away on Friday, July 7, 2017 at Wilson Regional Medical Center in Johnson City. She was born in South Otselic, January 11, 1947 the daughter of Wilson Emery and Hazel (Coler) Bates Lewis. She resided in several locations of Chenango and Cortland Counties. Her first marriage was to Kenneth Yocum (deceased). They had two daughters. She married second, Jeffrey Felton who died in 1998. In 2000 she married Thomas A. Gray and became step-mother to his daughter Alison.

Wilma worked many years in manufacturing. She was employed at the Huntington Street plant and South Cortland plant of Smith Corona and in later years of her career was employed in manufacturing engineering at Simmonds Precision, now owned by GE. After downsizing of the company, Wilma returned to school and obtained degrees in Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Management and a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration-Public Management with a minor in Sociology at the Utica School of Technology.

After graduation she was employed with SUNY Morrisville, Norwich Campus as administrative assistant and then went on to establish a position as tourism director for Chenango County in 1998. She had served on the Chenango County Tourism Advisory Committee for 3 years. As tourism coordinator/director Ms. Felton (a widow at the time) launched the first comprehensive tourism program for Chenango County. The program included an inventory of all marketable resources including historical, cultural agricultural, and recreational and tourism related businesses and organizations. These resources were marketed in all forms of marketing and advertising media. Chenango County's first travel guide was produced and published as a result. Wilma worked with county and regional and state officials in various realms related to promoting tourism to Chenango County. Wilma procured the help and donation of a local internet server to establish the first Chenango County web site (chenangocounty.org) to produce international tourism promotion.

In 1999 Wilma Felton met Thomas Gray, Guilford Town Historian. In the spring of 2000 they were married at St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Bainbridge. Wilma and Tom became members of several organizations, one of which was the Chenango Land Trust. They researched many aspects of the history of Guilford including people and places. This research led to hiking tours such as Coffin Man, Guilford Historical Remains, Grace Brown a Field Trip, and the Spirits of Yaleville plus Ghost and Spirits of Pitcher Springs. The tours were courses ran through DCMO BOCES adult educational programs in affiliation with the Chenango Land Trust.

After her retirement she focused on building the Guilford Historical Society into one of the largest in the County. She and Tom recruited most of the 250 members. Wilma was Vice President of the society for 8 yrs. and also head of membership. After the VP office position she became GHS treasurer. She was also on various committees, one of which was to help set up speakers for presentations for each year. Wilma was also responsible for developing the obituary collection for each of the 22 cemeteries in Guilford and with her help a committee they transcribed all the gravestones in the town. Therefore, GHS was able to have a great collection for genealogy researchers. Along with that collection she encouraged the people she helped with family research and added family photos to the GHS archives. Another aspect of the collections is a database of over 4000 names for birth, deaths and marriages prior to 1883. These were from newspaper and Church records. These records were important, as before then no records were required to be kept by New York State.

As a result of being a member of various organizations, Wilma became their promotional administrator. She was hired as a Feature Writer for Tri Town News, Sidney, NY for many years and Correspondent for the Evening Sun, Norwich, NY. Her marketing and graphic knowledge led to the development of a promotional booklet for the Guilford Community Day Funfest. There were many cases where the Town of Guilford events and the Guilford Historical Society events were promoted by her. As a result of her love for the town and the positive portrayal of the events, organizations and peoples, she was proclaimed Citizen of the Year in 2005.

She is survived by husband Thomas Gray, daughters; Stefany, Escondido, CA and Brenda, Salisbury, NC and a step-daughter Alison Lochridge who resides in Fairfield, CT. Grandchildren Allyssa, Trey, Aaron, Caroline, Gabriella their mom Stefany, Jadon's mom Brenda, and Liam and Kate's mom and dad Alison and Dave. Great grandchildren, Hadley, Quinn and Penny their mom Allyssa Sarkis. She is also survived by a brother Harold Bates (wife Evelyn), sister Christine Perkins and Helen Bates and many nieces and nephews She was predeceased by her parents and siblings Henry Bates, Elizabeth Stevens, Elsie Burdick, Eugene Lewis, G. Donald Bates and Evelyn Graves.

Friends are invited to call from 5:00-8:00pm on Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at C.H. Landers Funeral Chapel, 21 Main St. Sidney, NY 13838. Funeral services will be held at 11:00am on Thursday, July 13th at the United Methodist Church of Guilford. Burial in Sunset Hill Cemetery, Guilford, will follow. In lieu of flowers please make contributions to the building fund of the Guilford Historical Society of which she was an active member serving as vice president, membership chair, genealogist and later treasurer. Checks may be made out to the Guilford Historical Society and mailed to: PO Box 201, Guilford, NY 13780. Condolences may be shared with the family online at www.landersfh.com.

Arrangements are under the direction of C.H. Landers Funeral Chapel, Sidney.