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James E. Gray
July 6, 1970 ~ November 12, 2023 (age 53) 53 Years Old
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James E. Gray of Grand Rapids, Michigan, age 53, passed away peacefully in his home on Sunday,
November 12, 2023. He was born to Judith (Graskey) and Lawrence Gray on July 6th, 1970, in Grand
Rapids, MI. From a young age he was a member of the Grand Rapids Young Marines until he graduated
high school. Upon graduation in 1989, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps and completed his basic training
in San Diego, CA. He graduated boot camp in May of 1990, and went on to serve in the MWSS-271 airwing
from 1989-91. While serving in the airwing, he was deployed to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait for Operation
Desert Shield and Desert Storm during the Gulf War. His unit was the only MWSS to take part in
offensive combat operations in Kuwait during Desert Storm in order to establish a Forward Operating
Base at both Ahmed Al Jaber Air Base and Kuwait International Airport. James spent just under a year on
desert base Lonesome Dove as a combat engineer. After returning from deployment, he became an
embassy guard in the Marine Security Guard Program, serving in Lima, Peru and Helsinki, Finland with a
brief deployment in Moscow, Russia.
He was discharged with full honors in 1994 at the rank of Sergeant (E5) after which he went on to
become a security manager for over 30 years. During this time he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in
Business Management and led a dedicated team of security personnel for multiple companies. He also
was the Commanding Officer for the Grand Rapids Young Marines for years, helping to instill integrity
and build character in the local youth.
It was while serving in the Marine Security Guard Program that he met his wife, Kristiina (Nieminen)
Gray in Finland. They married September 9, 1995 in Joutseno, Finland. They then moved to West
Michigan, finally settling down next door to James’ childhood home on the Thornapple River. In August
2007 their son, Nikolas E.J. Gray, was born. James was a brave and loyal Marine as well as a dedicated
and loving Husband and Father.
He is preceded in death by his parents and grandparents. James is survived by his beloved wife and son;
sister-in-law, Taru; niece, Tatiana; nephew, Anthony; mother-in-law, Lea; father-in-law, Tauno; and
many others who were fortunate enough to know him. The family would like to thank the staff of
Corewell Hospice, the Wyoming VA Clinic, SHMG Neurosurgery, Blodgett Acute Rehabilitation, SH
Neurology Therapy, Cancer and Hematology Centers of West Michigan, and Butterworth Hospital
Neurology for all of their care and compassion during his illness.
James will be celebrated during a visitation from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, November 16, and from 11-12 p.m.
Friday, November 17, 2023, at Ofield Funeral Home, 4500 Kalamazoo Avenue SE, Kentwood, Michigan
49508. The burial ceremony will be taking place at 12:30 at Chapel Hill Memorial, 2894 Patterson Ave
SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49512.