Marguerite Ann (Nan) Gray

Monday, October 23, 2017 4:43 pm

With grace and peace, Marguerite Ann (Nan) Gray, 91, died Sept. 15, 2017, at Aase Haugen Home in Decorah Iowa where she resided for the past six years. Memorial services are at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 27, at First United Methodist Church in Decorah, with Rev. John Caldwell officiating. Visitation begins at 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 27, one hour before the service, at First United Methodist Church. Fjelstul Funeral Home in Decorah is serving the family. Online condolences may be made at

Nan was born Dec. 15, 1925, in Galesburg, Ill. to Leon and Ruth Miller. She attended La Crosse, Wis. schools, where she graduated from La Crosse Central High School in 1943. While in high school, Nan and a friend took on, and met, the challenge of bicycling nearly 70 miles to Chetek, Wis. This was in the day of single-gear bikes, no helmets and lack of spandex biking clothing – an achievement, indeed. Nan then attended Iowa State University where she received a degree in food and nutrition, and worked as a registered dietician at Mary Greeley Hospital in Ames.

Nan married Don Gray Aug. 27, 1948, at the First Presbyterian Church in La Crosse, Wis. A team for 61 years, they shared a love for travel, engaging and entertaining friends and a deep passion and respect of nature. They mutually enjoyed an active lifestyle of bicycling, skiing, hiking and canoeing. It was their intuitive sense of the other’s strengths that helped define them as a couple, parents, grandparents and friends.

With their arrival in Decorah in 1950, Nan enthusiastically began to define the role that she would play over the next 67 years: wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, friend and committed community member. As a mother she was ahead of her time in understanding the importance of seeing each of her three children as the unique individuals they were. An artist at using distraction as a way to keep children content, she famously created both indoor and outdoor projects that engaged all the senses. With a depth of patience and creativity, she cooked, gardened, did crafts and played a range of games with all ages. She easily passed on to her children and grandchildren an appreciation of nature and love of gardening. With each activity, she wore her signature smile that made all feel welcome and included.

Beyond home, Nan brought her skills and gifts to her deep commitment to the Decorah community. Her mark as a community volunteer stretched from her children’s schools to her church to civic causes, including being a supporter of the Trout Run Trail in Decorah. Nan was a long-time participant in Town and Country Garden Club, United Methodist Women and Monday Club, and was an early member of the Oneota Food Co-op. She was a 67-year member of the local P.E.O. It took her children years to discover that P.E.O. actually stands for Philanthropic Education Organization, versus a secret place where mothers went for a meeting during the middle of the week. During her tenure as a member, Nan served as treasurer. It is an organization with a charter of “Women helping women to reach for the stars.” It was a commitment that Nan embraced, but also magnified to ensure that everyone had the opportunity to be, and achieve, his or her best. She demonstrated this with faith and humanity. She will be greatly missed.

She is survived by her three children: Kathy (Steve) Melby of Des Moines, Steve (Patricia) Gray of Jerome, Ariz. and Rich (Kay) Gray of Minneapolis, Minn.; seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren: David Melby and his son Jayden, Melissa (Tim) Peterson and their children Emma, Brooke and Madelyn, Keegan (Jill) Lare, Sheldon Gray, Addison Gray (Vanessa) and their daughter Chevelle, Mara Gray and Ella Gray and brother, Jon Stewart Miller, Spring Green, Wis.

Nan was preceded in death by her husband, Don Gray, April 1, 2010; parents, Leon and Ruth Miller; brother Leon Miller; and, sister Suzanne Schwanberg.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to First United Methodist Church, 302 W. Broadway St., Decorah, IA 52101 or the Decorah Parks & Recreation Endowment Fund

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