Longtime Fayette resident Robert H. Bray, 67, died Wednesday (Oct. 9) at the Fayette Caring Center following a lengthy illness. Widely recognized for his work as a band director, he also was known for providing leadership in numerous fraternal and civic organizations.
He was a former director of the Fayette Housing Authority and earlier was executive secretary of the Central Methodist University Alumni Association.
Born in St. Louis on Sept. 10, 1946, Mr. Bray was the son of John Lewis Bray and R. Willola May Bray of Louisiana, Mo.
Reared in Louisiana, Bob graduated from the public schools there and in 1970 earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Central Methodist University, Fayette, in addition to completing most of the course work toward a bachelor’s in music education.
Bob’s love of music had been nurtured by a piano teacher in Louisiana and while a student at Central he became active in band (percussion) and ultimately was drum major for the Central Methodist Marching Eagles in addition to being student manager of the band program. He also served as president of the Beta Mu Chapter of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, national professional music fraternity for men. He also was active in the Alpha Phi Gamma fraternity (Mokers).
Almost immediately after graduation, Bob was named executive secretary of the Central Methodist Alumni Association, a position he was to hold until 1981. During the last two years in that post he also held the title of director of college relations with responsibilities in church relations and news bureau oversight.
During those years on the Central staff he was active in Fayette community affairs including the Fayette Rotary Club where he ultimately served 25 years as secretary-treasurer (1973-97) and continued as an honorary club member until his death.
He was active in various other local organizations (including the Boonslick Historical Society) and for several years headed blood drives for the Howard County chapter of the American Red Cross.
Bob’s most enduring contribution to the Boonslick area was his service as the conductor for various musical organizations, in particular the Fayette Star Cornet Band which he directed from 1981 until ill health forced his retirement about two years ago. Early summer concerts from the Howard County Memorial Bandstand on the courthouse lawn are fondly remembered by many local residents.
Along with members of Phi Mu Alpha and other community residents, Bob was instrumental in spearheading construction of the present bandstand in 1971 which was modeled after an earlier structure which stood on the same site from the late 1880s to 1943. The current bandstand honors several former CMU band directors.
Many of the same musicians who played for the Fayette Star Cornet Band also took part in the annual Roanoke Band concerts on the fourth Saturday of July from the historic bandstand located on the Howard County-Randolph County line. Fully 40 of those concerts were conducted by Bob Bray, the last in 2011.
Through the years Bob continued active involvement in Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia and held numerous local, state and national offices in the fraternity, including serving as governor of Province 19. A guest house on the grounds of the Phi Mu national headquarters in Evansville, Ind., is named in his honor.
Bob held various positions after leaving the Central Methodist administrative staff. He was a sales representative for the Bohart Music Co. in Kansas City from 1981 to 1984 and held a similar post with School Music Service from 1984 to 1988, later serving as store manager in Columbia from 1988 to 1990.
From 1994 to 2000 he was executive director of the Fayette Public Housing Authority. Later Bob worked briefly for the Isle of Capri Casino and the Veterans Administration. In more recent years he had been a driver for the Columbia-based Florist Distributing, Inc., until ill health forced his retirement in 2012.
In addition to music, one of Bob’s most enduring passions was involvement in countless aspects of Masonic work. He was in the Order of DeMolay as a youth and was inducted as a member of the Fayette Lodge in 1972 (now Fayette-Howard Lodge), serving as secretary from 1997 to 2011.
He participated in various capacities within nearly a dozen higher Masonic orders, including holding the office of Grand Pursuivant of the Grand Lodge of Missouri, 2000-2001.
Other fraternal memberships included the Knights of Pythias, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels.
Robert Harris Bray was preceded in death by his parents and a brother, John Lewis Bray of the state of California. He is survived by three nephews who reside in the Los Angles area and a cousin, John Wetzel of Columbia.
Owing to the progression of Parkinson’s Disease and other health issues, Bob had been a resident of the Fayette Caring Center since July 2012.
Services are set for 11 a.m. Saturday at Linn Memorial United Methodist Church in Fayette, with the Rev. Lewis Odneal officiating. Interment will follow at Riverview Cemetery in Louisiana, Mo. Pallbearers will be Jim Steele, Eric Feutz, John Wetzel, Kevin Sample, Murphy Tetley and Gene Rauscher.
Visitation at the Carr-Yager Funeral Home in Fayette is scheduled to take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Friday with a Masonic service at 7:30 p.m.
Unless specified otherwise, memorial contributions will go toward funeral expenses (care of Carr-Yager Funeral Home, 204 N. Linn Ave., Fayette, Mo. 65248).