Cover photo for Arlene Grace Elle Gray's Obituary
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1948 Arlene 2024

Arlene Grace Elle Gray

December 15, 1948 — May 21, 2024


Arlene Grace Elle Gray, 75, of Bismarck, ND, passed away unexpectedly on May 21, 2024, while on vacation in the Lakeview, Oregon area where she grew up as a young girl. 

A Celebration of Life will be held at 11:00 AM on Friday, June 28, 2024 at St. George’s Episcopal Memorial Church, Bismarck, with Pastor Steve Sathre officiating. 

Visitation will be one hour before the service. 

Burial will take place in Regent, ND.

Arlene Grace was born December 15, 1948, in The Dalles, OR, to Irving and Grace Elle, the fourth daughter born into a music loving family. Her parents were elementary school teachers and singers, and the family often sang together as a musical group in church and on road trips. Arlene started playing piano at age six and played organ for church while in high school. 

Arlene attended schools in Blue River and Lakeview, OR, graduating from Lakeview High School in 1966. She earned a B.S. degree from Oregon State University in 1970 (Elementary Education), and a B.A. from The University of Mary (Bismarck, ND), in 1994 (Music and Keyboard Performance).

Following graduation in 1970, she was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Iran for two years, teaching English as a second language. Decades later she wrote a book about her time in the Peace Corps called, “Letters from Iran.” After her service, she moved to North Dakota and married David Gray on October 20, 1972 at the Congregational Church in Dickinson, ND. Together they raised four children in Mandan, ND.

Music, faith, and family were the core of her existence. Throughout her career, Arlene worked numerous jobs – florist, music therapist, retailer, CNA – but what she most enjoyed was teaching children and adults to play piano and organ. Arlene ran a private music studio from her home for over 50 years. She cared for her young students like her own children, and was proud all of her students’ accomplishments.

She served as organist for several churches in the Bismarck-Mandan area, including the First Presbyterian Church of Mandan (for 15 years), the First Presbyterian Church of Bismarck, and most recently at St. George’s Episcopal Memorial Church. She taught piano and accompanied college choirs at Bismarck State College from 1997 to 2011. During the 2023-2024 school year, she was an accompanist for the choirs of Horizon Middle School.

She was a nationally certified teacher of music with Music Teachers National Association (MTA), a Piano Guild teacher and adjudicator. She held offices in local Federated Music Clubs, local and state MTA, American College of Musicians, and the American Guild of Organists. Arlene was also an active PEO member.

Arlene enjoyed reading, journaling, cooking, baking, swimming, studying German, tending to her garden, and always making time for family and friends. 

Arlene lived her life with passion and grace. She was known for being caring, patient, and kind to others, almost to a fault at times by opening her home to strangers in need of food and shelter. She would give piano lessons to students in exchange for home-cooked meals or doing little chores.

Arlene always carried herself with a warm smile. She said things like “Oh, fiddlesticks.” When her children were little and out playing in the neighborhood, she had a distinct “yodel” that could be heard from blocks away. When they heard it, they knew it was time to come home. 

Arlene had just retired when she took her vacation to Lakeview, where she planned to move later this year. She was enjoying a wonderful trip where she played the same organ she first learned to play on 60 years ago, and met many new people and musicians, all in a matter of a few days. Despite her unexpected death, her heart was full of joy, gratitude, excitement, and peace.

Arlene is survived by her three sisters, Karen Pierson (Gene), Eugene, OR, Onnetta Lu Adams (Melvin), Richland, WA, and Alice Rader (Mark), Philadelphia, PA; children, Mark (Jenifer), Stephanie (Travis), and Brian, all of Bismarck, and Timothy (Kayla), Mandan; grandchildren and great grandchildren; and so many beloved, lifelong friends.

Arlene was preceded in death by her parents; and husband of 51 years, David.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials for Arlene be made to St. George’s Episcopal Memorial Church, or to any music organization of your choosing.

Mom, we love and miss you. Give Dad a big hug from us. MSBT.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Arlene Grace Elle Gray, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Upcoming Services

Celebration of Life

Friday, June 28, 2024

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Central time)

St. George's Episcopal Church

601 N 4th St, Bismarck, ND 58501


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Visitation will be held one hour prior to service.

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