ORCUTT, Calif. - A moment of silence was held at the Monday luncheon of the Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table in memory of the organization's president Joni Gray who died suddenly last week from heart problems.
The 75 year old Gray, a former 4th District Santa Barbara County Supervisor who was born and raised in the Santa Maria Valley, served as president of the Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table for the past several years.
Gray was a tireless advocate for the Santa Maria Valley, northern Santa Barbara County and her constituents as 4th District Santa Barbara County Supervisor for 14 years.
She was also a huge sports fan and equally passionate and supportive of local college and high school sports and athletes.
"Her heart was all about the kids, all about what she could do to promote these athletes that we have in this community", said Yvonne Biely with the Athletic Round Table, "that they would be able to get exposure and possibly allow them the opportunity to get scholarships or be seen by a college that might be interested in them, she just did a great job."
Gray grew up in the Santa Maria Valley and her family name still stands at the site where they went into business decades ago on Betteravia Road in Santa Maria.
"We lost a great community leader, she just kind of personified the spirit of Santa Maria and north County", said Bob Engel of Engel & Gray, Inc., "she was always ready and able to volunteer, always trying to lead us forward, always trying to think about the future, great leadership person."
Joni Gray was a regular co-host of KCOY's television coverage of the annual Santa Maria Elks Rodeo Parade down South Broadway in Santa Maria and was Grand Marshal of the parade in 2016.
She was involved in other community organizations and events that celebrated her hometown that she dearly loved including the annual Monday Athletic Round Table lunch.
"She loved sports", said Yvonne Biely with the Northern SB County Athletic Round Table. "every week she would come in, and I miss it today, she would come in with a little baggie, she had cut out the top of the Santa Maria Times with all the scores and she would have it on our tables, so when everybody came in they would know who won and who lost for the week."
"Joni did a lot for the Round Table, she did a lot for the kids, it was her heart and soul to be here", Biely said. "She loved Mondays, her office people said she looked forward to Monday and always made sure that she was going to be here."
The Northern Santa Barbara County Athletic Round Table honors local college and high school athletes for outstanding performance in the past week with a pizza lunch at Giovanni's in Orcutt on Mondays.
A memorial service for Joni Gray is set for Thursday, November 30 at 2:00pm at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge where she was a member.