The leader of “Team Gray” got a touching and powerful send-off yesterday at St. Thomas More Catholic Church.
Several hundred people packed the church (standing room only) at 118th and Holmes to pay their last respects to Kevin Gray, 51-year-old president of the Greater Kansas City Sports Commission, who died of cancer last week.
Besides the huge crowd, a testament to Gray’s influence and popularity was the presence on the altar of six priests, led by St. Thomas More pastor Rev. Don Farnan, who was a good friend of Gray.
It’s not often that you see the chief celebrant at a funeral choke up and have his voice crack, but it happened yesterday. The first time it happened, Farnan had to stop speaking for several seconds, which triggered a flood of tears from the people in the pews.
Just four weeks ago, Farnan, one of the most popular priests in the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese, presided at the funeral of another well-known Kansas Citian, former City Councilman Bob Lewellen.
Lewellen was a close friend and mentor of Gray’s, and in the last week of Lewellen’s life, he and Gray rode around town looking at some of their favorite spots — some of them sports related — and sharing memories.
But back to yesterday…
The service had just the right combination of eulogies, prayerful supplications and great music, including the responsorial psalm “Shepherd Me, Oh God” and the David Haas classic “You Are Mine.”
The eulogists — Farnan, widow Katy Gray and long-time friend John Mulvihill — painted a portrait of a man who could juggle dozens of balls, who was never content to rest on past achievements and who, all the while, found ample time for family and friends.
Katy, Kevin’s wife of 23 years, delivered an uplifting eulogy, surrounded by family members who seemed to comprise a convoy of courage.
“The outpouring of love for Kevin has been overwhelming,” Katy said. “As I look out at you today, I’m proud to say that each of you are a part of Team Gray.” (That’s the handle that Gray gave his family, which includes four surviving daughters.)
In a light moment, Katy noted that Kevin had always said, “Everything is always black and white with you.”
“Funny,” Katy added, “that I ended up with the name Gray.”
Mulvihill, a classmate of Gray’s at Rockhurst High School, said:
“He was upbeat, honest and fun…He was the most successful politician never elected to office..The man was all about faith, family and community.”
Mulvihill went on to say that while Gray was “a man in a hurry,” he also was “a realistic guy who knew some things were going to get complicated.”
Gray’s approach to difficult and complicated challenges, Mulvihill said, was unfailingly pragmatic.
“He would say, ‘Figure it out,’ ” Mulvihill said. ‘Figure it out.’ “