James E. ‘Jim’ Wray, Jr. | obituaries


James Edward (Jim) Wray, Jr. of Hastings, Nebraska, died on Friday April 29, 2022 at Mary Lanning Healthcare in Hastings at the age of 74. The cause of death was kidney disease and Lewy body dementia.

Jim was born on December 29, 1947 in Springfield, Missouri to James E. (Jimmy) Wray and Dorothy Gallagher Wray. His father was an electrician by trade, a skilled woodworker and a veteran of the Corps of Engineers in World War II in Burma and India. His mother was a full-time homemaker and later a school clerk. He had a younger sister, Janet. His Ray/Wray-Haskett-Jones-Payne-Gallagher-Conry-Spellman-Barnett ancestors were Scots-Irish and English who immigrated to Missouri from Ohio, Kentucky, and eastern Tennessee.

Jim grew up in a Springfield neighborhood with small houses and lots of children where baseball was a favorite pastime. He’s been an ardent Cardinals fan his entire life. He often went fishing with his father, who also taught him carpentry, precision and patience. He enjoyed trudging through the woods with his beloved beagles and once brought home 3 orphaned baby raccoons who were raised to maturity. He enjoyed canoeing, water skiing, and camping with family and friends. His mother taught him cleanliness and an appreciation for good cooking. Jim was a wonderful big brother to Jan who helped her with her schoolwork and taught her to ride a bike, play marbles, board and card games, tennis, chess and climb trees. As children, they had wonderful times together and only fought when it came to water pistols or snowballs.

Jim excelled in scholastics, baseball, tennis, track and field, and speech/debate at Hillcrest High School, graduating in 1966. He earned a BS in mathematics and physics from Tulane University in 1970. In 1974 he earned a master’s degree in mathematics from Southwest Missouri University. He began his doctoral work at the University of Missouri at Columbia from 1975 to 1977 and continued his work at the University of Idaho at Moscow from 1977 to 1980, where he was a graduate instructor in calculus. Eventually, he accepted a full-time on-campus position as a Scientific Programmer at the College of Agriculture from 1981-1983 and later as a Supervisor/Computer Analyst from 1983-1984.

At MU he met Cheryl C. Menninger, who worked at the Mathematical Sciences Library, and they married in the college chapel in August 1977 and set off for Idaho the next day with two cats. While living in Moscow, they enjoyed the Pacific Northwest and had two children, Sarah and Christopher. They saw the Tutankhamun exhibit in Seattle on their first American tour, visited Glacier National Park and tourist attractions in western Canada, dug for shells in Idaho, and witnessed the ash fall from the Mount Saint Helens eruption. In 1984 the family moved to Hastings and Jim began working for the US Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) near the Clay Center. In 1990, they welcomed another daughter, Hannah. The family also had 3 other cats (not all at the same time).

Jim was with USMARC for 30 years before retiring in 2014, first as a Computer Services Manager, then as a Supervisor Information Technology Specialist. As a senior database architect, he developed databases and information systems and was an expert in database modeling and design. He served as a mathematical and statistical advisor to USMARC researchers and provided statistical analysis for their published work. He was involved in bioinformatics and was co-lead developer of the genome database (bovine, ovine and porcine genetic maps) and information management system used at USMARC, of ​​which he was very proud. He has been invited to present three times at professional conferences and has received multiple certificates of merit and recognition from the USDA.

A USMARC colleague, Jim, wrote, “was methodical and therefore came up with the best solution most of the time. Jim was always willing to listen and try to help with the problem. He was approachable, helpful, a teacher and a trusted colleague.”

He enjoyed sharing knowledge as a teacher. During his summer vacation from high school and college, he worked as a day camp supervisor, mentoring children in outdoor skills and activities. During the 1970-71 school year he taught geometry and advanced mathematics at Terrebonne High School in Houma, La. At college he was typically employed as a graduate assistant or instructor for calculus classes. At USMARC, he helped his colleagues learn technical materials, math, statistics, and the need to proofread one’s work. At home he was an overqualified tutor for math homework.

Outside of work, Jim enjoyed vegetable gardens, folk and country music, attended Nebraska football games, and watched sports on television. He was interested in recycling and volunteered at the Hastings Recycling Center where he served for several years on the board and later as its chairman. He was also youth football coach at the YMCA from 1997 to 2000 and a board member of Hastings Soccer Club from 2002 to 2008. He followed Hannah’s soccer successes with endless interest.

Jim was kind, selfless, generous with his time and tolerant of others. He was loyal to his family, conscientious and patient. He was an environmentalist and a good person at heart. He was completely devoted to his family and will always be greatly missed.

Jim is survived by his wife Cheryl; children Sarah, Chris and Hannah (husband Kip Kudron); grandsons Hunter and Declan Raymond; mother Dorothy; and sister Jan (husband, Mike Morgan).

His father Jimmy preceded him in death.

Funeral services are scheduled for Wednesday 3 May 2022 at 1.30pm at the Livingston Butler Volland Funeral Chapel in Hastings. The viewing will take place on Tuesday from 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the funeral home.


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