Dr. Frank Gray: surgeon, music lover, friend

Dr. Frank and Anna Gray at their residence last year where they hosted an afternoon of music and champagne as a fundraiser for the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra.

I just can’t believe that Dr. Frank Gray is gone. The retired orthopedic surgeon, music lover and fixture on Knoxville’s social scene has been a regular on the Blue Streak since its inception. That’s because he was passionate about so many things.

Dr. Gray, who passed away last Friday after a battle with a rare cancer, was among Jim and Natalie Haslam’s best friends. Jim Haslam spoke on behalf of the couple this week when he said, “It was a blessing for us to know and interact closely with Frank. He was a real Renaissance man. He was at home in the operating room, at the piano, in the kitchen or in his garden. He will be missed by many.”

I knew Frank best due to our mutual membership on the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra’s board of directors. He was president of the board for two terms and even filled in as executive director when that post was between occupants. He taught me by example how to be a better board member, and he was my mentor and my cheerleader when I became president of the KSO board several years ago.

But what I will remember and miss the most about Frank is the mischievous grin and twinkle in his eyes when he was displaying his wry sense of humor.

Rachel Ford, executive director of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, said Frank Gray’s passing leaves “a hole in the Knoxville Symphony family.”

“Dr. Gray loved music — listening to it, discussing it, performing it,” she said. “And he shared that love for many years in various ways for the benefit of the Symphony. He knew the KSO inside and out, having served four years as president of the board and also sitting in the executive director’s chair to manage the operations of the institution. We will miss his perspective, his enthusiasm and genuine love for music and the Symphony.”

Sharon Pryse, the founder of The Trust Company of Tennessee, also was a good friend of Dr. Gray and also served with him on the KSO board. They had two other things in common: a love of gardening and leadership roles in St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral.

“Frank was a brilliant, gentle soul,” she said. “But, wow, did he, as Clerk of the Works, keep us on budget with our recent multi-million dollar church renovation and new organ installation.”

She also noted his contributions to the Knoxville Symphony. “His longstanding dedication to excellence at the KSO really helped mold the Symphony into what it is today,” she said.  “We have lost one of the greats.”

I thought you’d enjoy some photos of Frank as he was out and about living life to the fullest in the community that he loved.

You can read more about Frank in this excellent article written by my friend Georgiana Vines for the News Sentinel (click here) or in his official obituary (click here).

Frank Gray welcoming guests to his home last year during one of the Knoxville Symphony League’s “Elegant Dining” fundraising events.

That afternoon, Dr. Gray joined Emi Kagawa, principal pianist of the Knoxville Symphony, for some Chopin on his Steinway D Concert Grand piano.

You can read an account of that lovely afternoon if you click here.

Frank and Anna Gray, left, with Jim and Natalie Haslam in March 2015 at a dinner at Blackberry Farm benefiting the Knoxville Symphony.

Dr. Jeremy Whaley of UT’s culinary arts program with Dr. Gray at the UT Gardens Gala in June 2018.

Anna and Frank Gray at that same event.

Natalie Haslam and Frank Gray at Cherokee Country Club in November 2014 when Jack Hanna was named East Tennessean of the Year by the East Tennessee Historical Society.

From left, Caraline Demirjian, Anna Gray, Barbara Arant and Frank Gray at Blackberry Farm’s Bramble Hall for a Symphony event in 2018.

Anna and Frank Gray at the downtown Hilton for a dinner featuring historian and author Ken Burns in 2018.

From left, the Very Rev. John C. Ross, Lois Ross, Jim Haslam and Frank Gray at Cherokee Country Club when Natalie Haslam was named East Tennessean of the Year in 2018.

Frank Gray speaking at the unveiling of a portrait of Natalie Haslam at the East Tennessee History Center in 2013. (Photo by Jack Williams.)

Bill Arant, left, with Natalie Haslam and Frank Gray at Blackberry Farm for a Symphony event in 2018.

Frank Gray and Barbara Arant at Blackberry Farm for a Symphony event in 2017.

From left, Jim Haslam, Rick Johnson, Anna and Frank Gray in 2013 at the Symphony’s annual Blackberry Farm fundraiser.

The Grays at last year’s Symphony event at Blackberry Farm.

The Grays in 2018 at the Symphony Ball at Cherokee Country Club.

The Grays and the Haslams in 2011 at the Natalie L. Haslam Music Center on the University of Tennessee campus for a benefit.

I wonder what Dr. Gray and Jim Haslam were discussing back in 2012 at Blackberry Farm.

Here are the two buddies in 2013 at the Great Gardens Party benefiting the Knoxville Botanical Garden. It was at Kreis Beall’s home on the Tennessee River.

This photo of Dr. Gray and Natalie Haslam was made in 2017 at the UT Gardens Gala.

A memorial service for Dr. Gray will be held in the future. His family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the following: Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, 100 S. Gay St., #302, Knoxville, TN 37902; St. John’s Cathedral, 413 Cumberland Ave., Knoxville, TN 37902;  InterFaith Health Clinic, 315 Gill Ave., Knoxville, TN 37917; or the charity of your choice.


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7 Responses to Dr. Frank Gray: surgeon, music lover, friend

  1. Sharon Laing, on June 4th, 2020 at 2:44 pm said:

    Fabulous tribute to a remarkable man.

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on June 4th, 2020 at 2:45 pm said:

    Sharon: He really was special. One of a kind.

  3. Marie F Alcorn, on June 4th, 2020 at 3:07 pm said:

    He was chair when I came on the East Tennessee Foundation Board. How fortunate I was!

  4. Gay Lyons, on June 4th, 2020 at 3:52 pm said:

    What a sweet tribute. He always had a friendly smile & a kind word.

  5. Diana Morgan, on June 4th, 2020 at 4:02 pm said:

    I was in the Theatre when he tried out the newly delivered Steinway. It was a treat to hear him “tinkering” with it. I knew him only through his philanthropic support and work but I vividly remember his professional approach to that grand, grand piano. What joy!

  6. Kim Davis, on June 5th, 2020 at 4:51 pm said:

    I’m so sorry to hear this. I remember him from my time on the KSL board. Not only a loss for his family but for the arts community in Knoxville. A very nice tribute from you ❤

  7. Jack Williams, on November 4th, 2021 at 10:35 pm said:

    A wonderful remembrance of a truly great man

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