Marcia Gray | Obituaries | The Newburyport Daily News
Groveland — Marcia Twombly Gray, a beloved matriarch whose Yankee grit and distinct New England pace belied a mad love of life and boundless appetite for international culture, died Sept. 11 at Port Healthcare Center of Newburyport. She was 93 and had lived in Groveland all her life.
Mrs Gray’s death comes five months after the death of her beloved husband of 70 years, John ‘Jack’ Gray Sr., whom she met in 1951 when they both worked in Cambridge in what was called then the New England Gas and Electric Association. She thought he was “rude” (one of her favorite words) for suggesting that Groveland was an irrelevant backwater; he thought she was a snob. They married the following year.
Mrs. Gray was born Marcia Allen Twombly on August 20, 1929 to William Dennett Twombly and Nellie (Aitken) Twombly of Groveland. His mother was ahead of her time, forging an independent life and working, among other things, as a journalist for The Haverhill Gazette. Her father was a longtime municipal official who fought in the US Army in France during World War I. Mrs. Gray’s great-grandfathers fought for the Union Army in the Civil War; others of his ancestors fought for the Thirteen Colonies during the Revolutionary War. She devoted herself to genealogy and teaching her children and grandchildren their family history; his Massachusetts lineage dates back to the 1600s.
After graduating from Simmons College in Boston, getting married and having two children she adored, Ms. Gray taught elementary school for 23 years at Evelyn Shanahan School and Dr. Elmer S. Bagnall in Groveland. Her life after teaching was dedicated to her friends and family, especially her four grandchildren. Whenever one of them arrived at her house – often unannounced on a bicycle – she hurriedly put out her long Benson & Hedges cigarette, trying in vain to disperse the smoke, fooling no one. To her credit, she quit smoking in her 60s and banished her husband and his pipe to the porch.
Mrs. Gray was warm and generous beyond measure, though she didn’t suffer from fools and had strong opinions on everything from her grandchildren’s back-to-school clothes to her vodka martinis for lunch. She loved animals – there was always at least one Beagle in the house – and often talked about her childhood pets, an asthmatic horse named Peter and a one-eyed Cocker Spaniel named Tiny Tim whom she dressed in children’s clothes. baby and was pushing in a stroller. (Needless to say, Mrs. Gray was an only child, though she was close to her first cousins, including famed artist Cy Twombly.) When she wasn’t regaling her grandchildren with haunting tales of costumed canine runts , she encouraged them. while they swam in his pool or tried to teach them to play the piano which – thanks to one of the Beagles with a particularly big appetite – was missing a leg.
Mrs. Gray enjoyed the proverbial finer things in life. She loved fine dining and high-end clothing – looking at price tags was never a priority, much to her husband’s dismay – and cherished her travels to England and Scotland, but was equally happy in her bedroom with the air conditioning on full blast, Agatha Christie and Stuart Woods novels spread out on the bed and a golf tournament on the television. For her family, she was the epitome of comfort and hug.
The defining relationship of Mrs. Gray’s life was her 70-year marriage to her husband, Jack. When they were together, which they always were, they laughed. Even when they bickered occasionally, it was with a twinkle in their eyes; well into their 90s, they were still called “babe”. After Mr Gray died in April this year, Mrs Gray kept the stiff upper lip that still seemed to be embedded in her DNA, but her world had been turned upside down and she missed her husband terribly. The family is very reassured to know that they are reunited again.
As well as mystery novels, Ms Gray was an avid reader of royal biographies. It’s only fitting that in recent days one of Queen Elizabeth II’s most shared quotes has been: “Heartache is the price we pay for love.” Ms. Gray’s survivors agree. They include her daughter Susan Staples and her husband Tim; son former State Representative John Gray II; grandson William Staples and his wife Bridget; grandson Zachary Staples; granddaughter Rose Moore and her husband Jon; and grandson Jack Gray. Mrs. Gray is also survived by two great-grandchildren, Atticus Staples and Lucy Moore; his former daughter-in-law, Maria Papaioanou Gray; and nephews Ned, Jay and Steven Elwell. In addition to her husband, parents and cousins, she was predeceased by her grandnephews Brent Elwell and Kevin Elwell.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Mrs. Gray’s memory to American Legion Post 248, 17 Fairview Circle, Groveland MA 01834 or to the Pentucket Regional Scholarship Foundation, PO Box 36 Groveland MA 01834.
Arrangements are private.