GREENUP The last time David and Sue Gray saw their son Doug was Thanksgiving.
The whole extended family spread out around the Grays’ modest home in Greenup to eat their turkey and mashed potatoes, then gathered together to play and sing some gospel songs.
David and Sue sang “On the Other Side.”
Doug played his guitar and sang “There was Jesus.”
“And he was there,” David and Sue agreed on Tuesday, speaking by phone from their home.
The family was gathered there again, not in thanks but in mourning. Doug Gray’s body had been found three days before in the rubble of the collapsed Killen Generating Station, a defunct power plant on U.S. 52 near Manchester, Ohio.
The 42-year-old Greenup County native and his co-worker Jamie Fitzgerald, of Catlettsburg, died after the building caved in Dec. 9.
“He told us he was ready to go home if the time came,” David Gray said. “He said that, and here he is gone. It’s the most important thing you could know, that your children are ready and you’ll see them again.”
If faith was one of Doug’s defining characteristics, so was a sense of fun, everyone in his family says. “He always had a smile on his face. He was the life of the party,” said Sue Gray. Doug was her stepson, strictly speaking, but there was no such distinction in the family. “I’m mom,” she said.
She brought children into her marriage with David and the blended family was happy together.
Doug grew up to love driving trucks and for a time worked as a logger with his father.
“He was a good boy. I call him a boy, but he was a man. But he was my baby. You know what they say, when they’re little they step on your toes; when they’re grown up, they walk on your heart,” David said.
When it came to expressing affection, Doug was the kind of man more comfortable with showing than telling, according to 15-year-old Mackenzie, one of his daughters.
“My dad had a funny way of showing love. He wouldn’t come right out and say it. He would find some funny way. You could tell the way he looked at you. You could see the love in his eyes,” she said.
He was there to help in the serious times, too, according to 13-year-old Angela, another daughter.
“He always tried to work things out. He always tried his best to work through problems and solve them,” she said. Angela remembers her father’s patience when he taught her and her twin sister Adrianna to spell their names and pronounce their “R’s.”
Doug had a stepson, Andrew Ramey, and stepdaughter, Bethany Suttles, from a previous marriage. He and her mother are no longer together, but Suttles still thinks of him as family. He came into her life when she was about 10. “He took me and my brother in like we were his own kids,” she said. Their biological father is not part of their lives so Doug was “a blessing” and he loved them as much as he did his other children, she said. When she married, he walked her down the aisle. When her daughter Jacelynn was born four years ago, “he never left my side the whole time. He stayed at the hospital,” she said. When he saw baby Jacelynn the first time, he cried, she said.
On that last Thanksgiving Day, Doug was making plans for the future. He and his fiancee, Trista Mabry, were poised to go get a marriage license.
If Doug could have been with his family Tuesday, Sue Gray said, he would want to sing another song. The song he would want to sing is “I Want Us to Be Together in Heaven.”