Dr. William Barton Wray of Lexington died May 13

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Dr. William Barton Wray of Lexington died on May 13, 2019, in Lynchburg at Heartland Health Care Center. He was 87 years old.

Bill Wray was born on Feb. 18, 1932, in Lexington to Luther Peter Wray of Lexington and Nellie Williams Staton of Buena Vista.

Bill was an extremely gifted jazz pianist, composer and baritone, the son of a talented multi-instrumentalist, Peter Wray, the sole snare drummer of the Virginia Military Institute Post Band who was twice invited by John Philip Sousa to go on tour.

As a young boy, Bill would sing and tap dance for the ticket taker at the local movie theater for free admission.

In 1949, at 17, he took the bus to New York City, alone, to audition for the Arthur Godfrey Television Show. He was beaten out by then unknown Eddie Fisher.

Bill returned to Lexington, and graduated from Lexington High School. He joined the Air Force, and served as a cryptographer in Nagoya, Japan. He was originally sent to Johnson AFB near Tokyo, but his fraternal twin brother, Davis, had a friend who pulled some strings to get Bill transferred to Nagoya where he could serve alongside his twin.

In 1958, Bill married his high school sweetheart, Dora Mae Robinson, who preceded him in death in 2006. In 1972, they had one daughter, Stacy Ferrell Wray, who lives with her partner, Frederick “Gus” Austin, in Portland, Ore.

Bill Wray graduated from the University of Richmond with a degree in chemistry, and received his D.D.S. from the Medical College of Virginia’s School of Dentistry in 1965. He practiced dentistry for many years, but his true love was music.

Bill is preceded in death by his parents, wife, sister, Ruby Wray Viar of Lynchburg; a half-brother, Desmond Wray, of Staunton; and his beloved poodle, Kip. He is survived by his twin brother, Davis L. Wray of Durham, N.C., and Frank “Major” Wray of Halifax; and numerous nieces, nephews, and great-nieces and nephews.

Bill was a master of improvisation on the piano and in the kitchen. He had perfect pitch and a beautiful, deep baritone reminiscent of his long-time idol, Bing Crosby. He was a talented chef who made many delectable meals throughout the years.

Profoundly sensitive and a lover of animals, Bill was very private, and enjoyed meaningful conversations with those close to him.

In 1997, Bill Wray recorded an album of original music entitled “Alone With the Night” on PepperAlley Records. In the early 2000s, Bill was the resident dinner pianist at Natural Bridge Historic Hotel.

William Wray will be interred beside Dora Mae, his wife of 48 years, at Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery in Lexington.

Bless his soul!

The News-Gazette

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