Inducted: October 27, 1993
Lyle H. Gray started his career grading eggs in the basement of his parents' Palmyra home, but his goal-oriented approach to life brought him from that modest beginning to pre-eminence in the Ontario egg marketing industry.
At the end of a long and productive life, he was remembered for many fine qualities, but especially for his honesty. A lifelong friend said of him, "Above all, Lyle Gray was an honest man. He was known for it." Another Ridgetown resident said that Mr. Gray prospered, as he did, "because he was so honest." He, himself, said on one occasion that success would have been impossible "without my family."
Mr. Gray was born near Palmyra, and attended S.S. No. 2, Orford Township (Palmyra). His father, James M. Gray, had been both a commercial fisherman and a farmer, but neither of those career opportunities appealed to his son. Instead, he started, modestly, grading eggs in the basement of the old stone house, with members of the family helping.
Developments in 1934 were to prove highly significant to his career. He moved to Ridgetown and established a business there; and he married the former Ina Shipp, who used her native business ability to promote the new enterprise.
In 1938, Mr. Gray bought the Ridgetown Creamery, and continued to operate it until 1962. At one time, he delivered live poultry and eggs to Detroit and Toronto, a typical exercise in entrepreneurial marketing. In the early years, he used to travel up and down the concession roads in a small truck, picking up eggs and cream and delivering feed and butter and establishing contacts with area farmers.
The company concentrated its efforts on the processing, packaging and distribution of eggs mainly to retail outlets in Ontario and Quebec. With the establishment of the Ontario Egg Producers' Marketing Board, Mr. Gray became both a producer and a large-scale marketer of eggs through his firm, L. H. Gray and Son Limited.
Eventually, the company expanded to Moorefield near Kitchener (1972), and to Strathroy (1977), where it now has its headquarters.
Mr. Gray retired in 1968, but he continued to have an active interest in the business, visiting the farms, and making suggestions to his son, William H. Gray, who had taken over responsibility for the business. Mrs. Gray remained active in the operation until her death in 1978.
Mr. Gray was interested in photography, travel and boating, and on occasion, would find a peaceful place to work, sitting in his boat in the middle of Rondeau Bay. He was also a great reader, and could talk knowledgeably on any current subject.
Mr. Gray was a member of Erie Street United Church, and found practical expression for his commitment to the community. It was said of him, "He did a lot of good for a lot of people, but he didn't want anyone to know about it."
After his death, a friend said, "Lyle Gray enjoyed great success, but never flaunted it and he never changed."