If there’s one thing Tony Gray loved — other than his wife, Dana, brother, Jerry, his roofing business and the company of friends — it was his toys.
Tony and Dana were regulars out at Thunder Valley Raceway Park, where he enjoyed racing dragsters and roadsters, the competition and time with friends. While the engines may not be running heavy the next time competitors take to the track, hearts certainly will be.
“He didn’t care if you were a competitor driving a million-dollar rig or if you were emptying the trash cans at the track, he treated everybody the same,” said Eric Casperson, owner of Boyd’s Racing Engines in Norman, where Tony has been a customer for at least 20 years.
Communities in both Moore and Norman are mourning after Tony, Dana and Jerry died Thursday when the single-engine plane they were flying in crashed while trying to land at William P. Hoby Airport in Houston.
A prayer service was hosted Monday on the Community Christian School football field in Norman, where children of all three attend. More than 450 people attended, said Jill Porter, a family friend.
Balloons were released into the sky at the conclusion of the prayer service.
Tony and Dana owned the family run Statewide Roofing in Moore. The company has not issued a direct statement to the media, but a message on Statewide’s Facebook page was posted June 9: “We were devastated to learn of the tragic accident claiming the lives of 3 of our loved ones today. Tony and Dana Gray touched the lives of everyone around them with their huge hearts. It is a difficult time for us all. We want to thank everyone that has reached out to us with your kind thoughts and prayers. Please keep the prayers coming!”
Statewide also announced that a remembrance service will be 1 p.m. Saturday at Crossroads Church in Oklahoma City for friends and family.
Porter said the group was flying to Houston to see Tony and Jerry’s father, who is receiving cancer treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dana was piloting the aircraft, she said.
The family has been in the Moore-Norman area for many years, Porter said, and is well known.
Casperson remembers Tony as a fastidious race car enthusiast who always looked for the best.
“He always wanted everything first class,” he said. “He wanted parts from the top shelf, top quality, and he wanted it to look the best, too.”
It wasn’t just Tony that got involved in the effort, either.
“If we were out in the shop working on a car, she (Dana) was bringing sandwiches and drinks out to us,” Casperson said.
The Grays ran their business in similar fashion. In a statement on its Facebook page, Thunder Valley referred to Statewide as a longtime sponsor and supporter of local racing. Many went to the business for its level of service.
“We built a relationship with him over the years,” Casperson said. “He’s put roofs on our business, and every one of our families and extended families have Statewide roofs.”
The value of the Grays and Statewide was even more evident following the 2013 tornado. Casperson said the business was a big help as the community rebuilt.
“It seemed like profit was secondary to him,” he said. “He wanted to have a good job done, and customer satisfaction was the most important issue.”
The National Transportation Safety Board reported that the plane crashed on its third attempt to land and came to rest in a business parking lot northwest of the airport.
A spokesman said a preliminary report on the crash is expected to be ready next week, but a full report may take much longer.
The Cirrus SR-20, a single-engine plane marked flight N42526, is registered with Safe Aviation LLC of Moore, according to FAA registration records.