Doug McCray “lived well, laughed often, loved much.”
His laugh filled rooms, his enthusiasm inspired kids. With his unexpected death last week, “We lost the best friend any of us could have,” said Emmett Arndt, principal of Shadle Park High and McCray’s boss.
More than 1,000 people packed the Church of The Nazerene First to remember the 47-year-old Shadle Park counselor and coach, hearing stories about his love for popcorn, his rambunctious sense of humor and his passion for the Christian faith. Like his life, the memorial was crowded with people, emotional, poignant and funny. The church was speckled with students in green and yellow Shadle letterman jackets and the blue uniforms of the Colville (Wash.) Police department, where McCray worked 20 years ago.
“He embraced us with his bear hug personality and a gentle hand on the shoulder,” said Arndt.
McCray succumbed to a heart attack March 31 while preparing to go snowmobiling at Priest Lake, Idaho. His daughter Allison, a junior at Mead High, was by his side as he died.
His death jarred Shadle Park and Mead high schools, where McCray worked in the late ‘80s. Dozens of Shadle students painted the people’s wall just off Monroe Street Bridge in his memory, promising to heed McCray’s frequent request: “We’ll sign up for our SATs.” Shadle’s halls were still at 3 p.m. last Friday, vacated for the memorial.
The school has already weathered the sudden deaths of two others - senior Shellie Kyle and Audubon Elementary principal Dick Stannard, husband of a Shadle teacher.
Lingering grief from the other deaths surfaced Friday. “I never thought I’d go to this many funerals,” said a student in a letterman jacket, dabbing her eyes at the memorial.
“It doesn’t seem fair to take someone who had so much to give and isolate him from us,” said Dylan Unhill, a Shadle Park junior, in a eulogy to McCray.
“The loss of Doug is huge,” said Arndt. “The vitality of who we are is affected. Such a huge source of vitality is now gone. I don’t think any of us realized how much we (would) want to see Doug walk through the door.”
McCray was born in Spokane in 1949 into an Irish Catholic family. He met his wife Barb in seventh grade, and they dated while attending Shadle Park High. He was a police officer briefly before switching to education in 1976. He helped start M.E.A.D., Mead’s alternative school before moving back to teach at his alma mater in 1992.
Joan Leach, his sister, remembers her brother as a man full of life and fun. He loved the Fourth of July and shooting off firecrackers. Each year he would make a list of fireworks that did and did not work.
“Of course, he lost the piece of paper and would have to make another the next year,” said Leach, principal at Mead’s Meadow Ridge Elementary. The crowd laughed, fending off the grief for a moment.
Doug would have liked that.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Fund established A memorial fund for Doug McCray has been established at the Church of Nazarene First, 9004 N. Country Homes Blvd. The fund benefits the church’s building budget.