A fixture on sidelines for Little League and high school sports, cheer competitions and other school events in Warren County, Paul Gray didn’t let many moments slip by the lens of his camera.
The outpouring on social media Saturday signified how much it meant to those in the photographs.
Gray, a familiar face who spent his free time as a photographer for local sporting events, died Saturday at the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington. He was 66.
News of Gray’s passing resulted in a wave of emotional social media posts Saturday from local high school coaches, administrators, former and current student athletes.
Gray’s last event he photographed was Bowling Green High School’s win in the state baseball tournament Friday night in Lexington.
“He has made an impact on about every adult and kid in this community for years now,” said Gary Fields, the Bowling Green Independent School District superintendent. “You can see by the outpouring on social media. There’s not a person who didn’t know Paul that didn’t think Paul Gray cared about them and what they were doing.”
Gray was born in Shelby County and arrived in Bowling Green in 1970 to attend Western Kentucky University. He transferred to the University of Kentucky in 1973 and returned to Bowling Green two years later. He practiced physical therapy for 43 years, spending the last 23 years in private practice working with orthopedic conditions.
He is survived by his wife, RoxAnne, and daughter, Katie, who graduated from Bowling Green High School.
Warren East athletic director Jonathan Vincent said although perception may have identified Gray as primarily a photographer for BGHS, he was around to photograph important games for every school.
“I know you see all over the place that he was a Purple, but he was more than that,” Vincent said. “Everybody is heartbroken. He would do anything that you asked him to do. If you needed him to take a special picture or something for a special student (he was there). He would text you and say, ‘Hey, use any of it. Download it from my website. Use them for the yearbook. Use them for families.’ He’s affected so many people. It’s heartbreaking and caught everybody off guard today.
“His photographs are amazing and what he did there was amazing, but when you talk to him he was even more amazing. He was fun to talk to. He was wise beyond his years. He was definitely more than just his camera.”
Gray’s lens also captured several Bowling Green Hot Rods games.
“We are sad to hear of the passing of Paul Gray,” said Eric Leach, the Hot Rods’ CEO/general manager. “He was always a true gentleman, had a genuine care for others and was a fantastic photographer. Bowling Green lost a great man today and he will be greatly missed.”
Gray’s photography stretched to Little League baseball in the summer. When the Bowling Green East Little League team reached the Little League World Series in 2016, Gray drove 12 hours to Williamsport, Pa., to photograph a late game, then drove back in the night to see patients by noon the next day in Bowling Green.
Fields recalled Gray at the ballpark just Wednesday capturing the moments of his son’s last Little League game.
“Paul was a guy that would show up for the most mundane athletic event ever, take a picture and make a little kid feel like they were LeBron James,” Fields said. “He would take time to put quotes with pictures. I tweeted out just Wednesday night about (my son) Parker’s last Little League game ever and Paul at 11 (p.m.) Wednesday night is sending me pictures of Parker because he knew I’d want those.”
In an April 2016 interview with the Daily News, Gray expressed how photography was his own escape from his day job.
“Taking photos is my therapy,” Gray said then. “It is comforting to give back to this dynamic community that has been so good to myself and my family.
“There are fantastic kids doing great things in this community and surrounding area. Let’s let them see a small reward for their positive contributions. I gather energy from their enthusiasm and youth. To permanently capture and share a moment in time of a kid is the greatest reward.”
Today we’ve lost a great mentor, photographer, physical therapist, and icon. Most importantly we’ve all lost one of the best people and friend that I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. Anyone who knows Paul, knew he’d give the shirt off his back to help. Rest easy on that mountain.. pic.twitter.com/6ouETuGZW7– Cameron Wallace (@Cam_W9925) June 9, 2018
My heart breaks that we lost @PGPT27 today. The entire Bowling Green and WKU cheer community will miss you more than words could say. Thanks for capturing some of my best memories. Say hi to Spen for us! ❤️ the sidelines won’t be the same this year. 📸 pic.twitter.com/i8pa75NYF3– Emily Armes (@emilyarmes) June 9, 2018
Paul and Wes are up there having lunch together right now. Thinking about that makes me a little less sad.– Brad Stephens (@BradBGDN) June 9, 2018
They gave so much more than we ever returned. Neither were “teachers” but they taught so much about the joy of serving others. I miss my friends. I’ve been so lucky for how they’ve impacted my life. pic.twitter.com/zfAIVzIQfM– Kevin Wallace (@CoachKWallace) June 9, 2018
Thank you so much Paul Gray for everything, you’ve touched more life’s than you’ll ever know. You’re always a CHAMPION in my heart until I see you again💜🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/ggjhzHn2QG– TreFant (@TreFant7) June 9, 2018
Thank you Paul for everything. You provided all of us with memories that will last a lifetime. I can’t explain how much this hurts but I know you’re smiling down on us. Everytime I saw you it was nothing but smiles. Your legacy in BG will live forever. Rest in peace to the 🐐❤️ pic.twitter.com/7CpAjhxoVI– DeAngelo Wilson (@lil_drizzy02) June 9, 2018