A Memorial Day Tribute
- June 9, 2021
Seventy-five years ago, alumnus Ronald Gray ’40–’42 was killed in action in World War II. His twin brother, Donald, died in January after a fall, at 102 years old. But both will be remembered because of Donald’s special act in the last year of his life—he created a Moody scholarship to honor Ronald’s life and legacy of gospel ministry.
Donald lived in his own home in Canton, Ohio, with regular visits from his caregiver, Juanita, who knew him best. “This scholarship has been something he really wanted to do for his brother, to remember him,” she said.
“It seemed like a good thing to do,” Donald said in an interview with Moody Alumni & Friends last September 2020.
Donald had served as an officer in the Pacific theater but was in New Jersey when he received the news about his brother’s death in the Philippines. “That was the worst day of my life,” he said.
Ronald’s story is part of American history. After the devastating Battle of Bataan in 1942, General Douglas MacArthur had issued his famous promise: “I shall return.” He did return in January 1945, with 175,000 soldiers who stormed Luzon. The casualties were staggering—10,000 American service members lost their lives, as did 200,000 Japanese soldiers and 150,000 Filipino citizens.
Then, on the morning of May 18, 1945, when his unit was searching for a missing comrade, Ronald was mortally wounded from a Japanese gunshot wound. He died and was laid to rest in Luzon’s Military Cemetery No. 1.
“Ronald was always one of the most outstanding soldiers in his company,” wrote Alan J. Kennedy, the “K” Company captain who sent a sympathy note to his mother. “He was well-liked and admired by every officer and enlisted man, and we all feel deeply the loss of such a true friend and comrade. Words can never truly express the value of the service he has done for us, and we will never forget the example of courage and devotion to duty that he set for our emulation.” Mrs. Gray forwarded the tribute to Moody, where it was published in the student paper.
Ronald and Donald were born in 1918 and, like most twins, they were close—“We did everything together,” Donald said.
After high school in 1936, they worked in local steel mills for two years, then studied for a year in Ohio State’s electrical engineering program. But Ronald felt the call of God to become a minister and transferred to Moody Bible Institute in 1940.
While at Moody, Ronald served as a Sunday school teacher and visited the sick in a nearby hospital. With World War II in full swing, his brother Donald graduated and served as an officer in the South Pacific. In 1942, Ronald made the difficult decision to leave Moody and join the war effort.
While at infantry training in Camp Fannin, Texas, he enjoyed assisting the Army chaplain during religious services. Ronald went on to serve overseas with the 130th Infantry of the 33rd Division in New Guinea, Morotai, and the Philippines.
In his final letter to his mom, Ronald wrote: “It’s cold here.… At night two blankets are not enough. A wool sweater helps too. Now don’t go sending me more scarves. The more things I have, the more I have to carry around! The rainy season has begun also. I feel pretty good about coming through the last three months and not getting hurt, as I wrote to Carol [his girlfriend]. God has been good to me. Maybe after another year overseas, I can go be back home.”
Two days later he was dead, and by August the war was over.
After the war, Donald married and worked as an aerospace engineer. His wife, Nellie, passed away in 2008.
Recently Donald transferred a gift of stock to Moody to fund the Ronald Harrison Gray Memorial Grant. The scholarship gives financial assistance to qualified undergraduate and graduate students who “exhibit a strong desire to build community and who model excellent interpersonal skills”—much like his brother did.
“Ron did not get to experience his dream, although I’m sure he was ministering to every soldier he met,” Juanita said. “But becoming a pastor was very important to Ron, so I would love to see pastors come out of this scholarship. Pastoring might end up being on the battlefield or wherever. But I’m just counting on it making a difference.”
Donations may be made to the Ronald Harrison Gray Scholarship at Moody Bible Institute.