Happy 104th Birthday Lester!


Tomorrow is Lester Dray’s 104th birthday. Imagine for a moment what that means. He was born in 1916 when Woodrow Wilson was president. He has lived through the presidency of 16 others, two World Wars (more on this in a moment), the Great Depression and the Korean, Vietnam, Iraqi and Afghanistan wars. In his lifetime the internet was born, men landed on the moon, and the Corona virus came to stalk human kind.

Lester was born in Oakland, CA on July 24, 1916. At an early age he learned to play piano by ear.

He was married to his sweetheart Sybil for 65 years. His parents had always insisted that he attend college and he entered UC Berkeley at the age of 16 to study Math and International Business. That’s where he and Sybil met. They were drawn together because both loved to dance. During WWII they remained in touch by correspondence. When he finally returned to the states they spent one day together and that was enough to convince them to get married.

Lester served for 5 years in the Pacific Theater during WWII. When he returned home he discovered that the company he had worked for before the war had gone out of business. An old friend connected him with Shell Oil and he worked for Shell until he retired at age 60. Decidedly too young and vibrant to retire, he took at teaching job at Houston Community College, where he taught for 15 years. He later said it was his all-time favorite job.

In 1991 Sybil’s younger sister had moved to Sun City West and Lester and Sybil followed her out. If it was good enough for her, it was worth checking out.

In his retirement in Arizona Lester was active at FPC Peoria and a volunteer for St. Mary’s food bank.

In 2003 Sybil was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Lester had heard about La Loma Village in Litchfield Park and it seemed the perfect place for both of them. She could get the care she needed and he could room with her and remain close by. For the next three years he was her faithful care giver.

In 2006 Sybil succumbed to this dread disease and Lester never got over missing the love of his life.

Lester attended FPC faithfully until 2018. It became harder and harder for him to get up and get going.

For his 103rd birthday last year Lester came to church and played a piano medley. We had a giant birthday party for him in the Fellowship Hall.

Tomorrow his friends are throwing a birthday party for him on Zoom.

Here’s how you can attend: Zoom Meeting ID 936 875 55469 (Password: 489 948)

Phone in 1 669 900 9128 or 1 235 215 8782 (Meeting ID 936 875 55469)


Eternal and living God: we celebrate the birthday of one of your own who has lived long and well. Thank you that he has journeyed through so many ages and stages of life cultivating the gifts of wisdom, patience, persistence and dependence on You. We affirm the joy and wonder of your word in the Scripture that says, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.” (Proverbs 16:31 NIV)

We pray that you will continue to grant him vigor, strength and health this day and on all of the days ahead. Bless his days with beautiful memories, much love and few worries. Provide the help he needs when tasks are too difficult. Be his constant companion when family and friends are far away. Be with him on whatever path life continues to take. Bless him abundantly as he has blessed us with his grace, perspective and love. In the name of the Christ our Savior we pray. Amen