Last Friday, October 19th, John Gray, known for developing much of South Portland, died at the age of 93. According to The Oregonian, “Gray was known for developing some of the state’s most prominent resorts, as well as redeveloping the John’s Landing district in Southwest Portland.”
He led the 1970s redevelopment of South Portland’s industrial riverfront, including John’s Landing. Although John’s Landing was not named for John Gray but for the B.P. John Furniture Co., Gray still helped turn this industrial area into a residential and financial district.
Not long before his death, Grey pledged $5 million to the Knight Cancer Institute in South Portland’s Oregon Health and Science University. This created an endowed chair in his name. Earlier this year, REACH Community Development Corp. and the Portland Housing Bureau announced a new South Waterfront affordable housing development, about which I previously wrote an article. This housing development includes housing for 42 homeless veterans and will be called Gray’s Landing in honor of Gray’s support.
Although too modest to really want a building named after him, he allowed himself to be convinced, and Gray’s Landing is now accepting applications for their apartments. Check out grays-landing.com for their application packet and more information about the new building in the South Waterfront neighborhood.
Born in Ontario and raised in Monroe, Gray grew up in a rural community. This gave him a respect for land that might not look so good in the spotlight. He served in World War II in the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, earning the rank of lieutenant colonel and a Bronze Star Medal. He had degrees from Oregon State University and the Harvard School of Business. He also served as the general manager of the Oregon Saw Chain Manufacturing Corp., which is now a part of Portland-based Blount Inc. In the 1960s, he turned to developing resorts, including th4e Salishan resort on the Oregon Coast. He also created the Sunriver Resort and the Skamania Lodge on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge. He was dedicated to development, higher education, early childhood education, and philanthropy.
Grey is survived by four children, Joan Gray, Janet Webster, Jack Gray, and Laurie Mootz; 12 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His wife, Betty Gray, and daughter, Anne Walrod, died before him. Gray’s family has asked that donations be sent to Habitat for Humanity, REACH CDC, or another charity instead of flowers. According to The Oregonian, “Gray wanted Oregonians to enjoy what the state and region have to offer.” Therefore, he spent his life making sure people had affordable housing in the beautiful, renovated areas of South Portland and surrounding areas.