Gwen Wray, 73, died Wednesday, October 28, 2020 peacefully in her sleep after a brief illness. While in the Bristol Regional Medical Center ICU 3 she earned the nickname “Wild Cat” from her nurse, Taylor. Gwen would wait until the nurses had left the room or were talking and then secretly remove her mask and IVs. She was only there for a few days; but, she won the hearts of everyone around her.
Born in Sullivan County to Reverend Bobby and Frances Olterman, she had resided in Kingsport most of her life. Gwen attended The University of Tennessee at Knoxville for two semesters before they promptly asked her to leave. She enrolled as a music major and decided college was more fun when she was piercing her friend’s ears and partying. Her fondest memories were spending time at UT football games and weekends in Knoxville with her best friends, Tom and Deborah Johnson.
Gwen met the love of her life, Bill Wray, while she was working as a legal secretary in Knoxville, Tennessee. On their first date, he told her she wore too much blue eyeshadow and she responded, “If you don’t like it, you can date someone else.” He married her a short time later and they spent the following 44 years together. She loved him fiercely and always stood by his side.
Gwen was a Kingsport icon and notorious for offering cigarettes to anyone who might be having a bad day. She shared her Merit Ultra Lights and a listening ear with the broken hearts from the Allandale Barn Dances, swimmers who didn’t make the state qualifying times and to those who needed to sober up after a senior cruise to Mexico. She was always the first choice for a chaperone and led by the example, “we’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time.” On the weekends in the 90’s she was the primary getaway driver for rolling houses at 3am with her kids and their friends. She would also take kids to “cruise Broad” while listening to New Kids on the Block.
Gwen always loved kids. She was involved in volunteer activities at schools and First Presbyterian Church. She would provide doughnuts, cake, and juice boxes to Sunday school kids who would later throw up all the sugar she gave them. Gwen threw the best slumber parties, pioneered the iced brownies and potato chips for breakfast movement (IBPCFB), made the most incredible chocolate chip pancakes and was fiercely loyal to her family and friends. She made everyone feel welcome and you always knew where you stood with her. She loved hosting wedding and baby showers at the Wray Law Firm. At one particular shower, Laura Ann Boyd was expressing her overwhelming gratitude for the wedding gifts she received and Gwen told her, “honey, the overwhelming thing is that you have to cook dinner every day for the rest of your life.” She wasn’t wrong…
She was preceded in death by her brother, Bob Olterman; her father, Reverend Bobby Olterman; and husband, Bill Wray.
This Kingsport legend leaves behind her favorite child, Will Wray and wife Tiffani of Kingsport, Tennessee; her daughter Katye Wray of Kansas City, Missouri; her mother Frances Olterman of Kingsport, Tennessee; and grandsons, Riley, Mason, Jackson, Harrison and Taylor.
A drop in celebration of life will be conducted from 1:00pm-4:00pm on Saturday, November 28, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church in Kingsport, Tennessee.
A family inurnment committal service will take place in the church columbarium.
In lieu of flowers, please eat iced brownies and potato chips for breakfast and laugh at all the memories you made with our mom.