Working in the glass business for 50 years has helped Walter L. Gray keep a clear view most of the time.
And working regularly, taking care of his family and keeping busy has helped the Salt Lake man, who at 80 years of age is probably the oldest Utahn still in the glazing business, maintain a balanced perspective on life."I have enjoyed every bit of it (the glass business). When I started in the business with my brothers in 1941, there were only about five glass businesses in the Salt Lake Valley. Now there are about 60 to 70 glass shops," said Gray, who turned 80 Monday and who was honored Friday at a surprise birthday party by family and friends at Gray Glass Inc.
Gray, who was born in Salt Lake City in 1911 and lives with his wife, Edna, in the Sugar House area, started in the glass business working for Bennett Glass and Paint in April 1937. He first stocked shelves with paint, later working as a pricing clerk and in 1941 he began learning how to install glass.
He worked for Bennett 10 years. In February 1951 he joined his brother, Henry, and another brother, Roy, in their firm, Gray's Glass. Henry retired about 1976, and his son, Richard H. Gray, and Walter L. Gray continued as partners in the firm.
Thirteen years ago Feb. 1, Walter L. Gray sold his share of the business to Richard H. Gray, but Walter has continued working full time at the business, located at 234 E. 600 South. Richard H. Gray died earlier this month of complications from diabetes. Roy Gray and Henry Gray also are deceased.
Walter L. Gray has installed thousands of panes of glass in homes, businesses and cars and other vehicles. He also is skilled in putting in screens in storm doors and windows. But he hasn't been doing outside glazing work for about the past three or four years.
Gray has not only continued interest in his job, but during the summer he plants and cares for a large vegetable garden. His home and yard, located on a quarter-acre, includes a decorative rock garden and waterfall.
Gray says he's happiest when he keeps busy at home, with his family and in his church. He has served as a clerk and was a counselor in two bishoprics in the Fairmont LDS Ward, Granite Stake. And he and his wife have enjoyed traveling to many places in the United States and other countries.
Eight years ago a pacemaker was implanted in Gray's chest to regulate his heartbeat. But he's in good health and just got his driver's license renewed for another four years. "I hope to last (that time) out," he said.
Gray and his wife have five children, 25 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, many of whom affectionately refer to him as "Dumps Grandpa" because of his willingness to take them to the Salt Lake County landfill on garden cleanup days and to get ice cream on the return trip home.