Beth Van Vorst Gray
January 16, 1934 – February 24, 2020
Beth Van Vorst (Greene) Gray, 86, passed away on February 24, 2020, at the Hospice House in Bloomington, Indiana.
She is survived by loving husband Professor Ralph D. Gray. She is also survived by brothers James Richard Van Vorst (Carolyn), and Charles Brian Van Vorst (June). Beth was a talented writer, artist, entrepreneur, social activist, raconteur, and bon vivant who adored her four children, Betsy K. Greene (Jeromi), Christopher R. Greene (Xiomara), Jeffrey A. Greene (Melanie), and Jennifer A. Greene; three step-children, Karen Gray Boebinger (Greg), David D. Gray (Melanie), and Sarah J. Gray; as well as thirteen grandchildren, Katie Beth, Ryan, Socrates, Christopher Jr., Taylor, Tess, Daniel II, Skye, Hunter, Dana, Matthew, Scott, and Caleb; and six great-grandsons, Daniel III, Hansen, Easton, Carter, Connor and Socrates Alex.
Beth was born in Harvey, Illinois, on January 16, 1934, the first child of John William and Bessie (Borg) Van Vorst and later welcomed into the family three brothers, John Robert, James Richard, and Charles Brian, whom she helped raise and adored. Beth’s parents and the eldest brother, John, pre-deceased her. A good student, Beth received her secondary education at high schools in Harvey, Illinois, Mountain Grove, Missouri, and Evansville, Indiana. She was the valedictorian of the senior class upon her graduation from Central High School in Evansville in 1952. She then attended Indiana University in Bloomington on scholarship, but parental illnesses caused her to return home early to care for the family.
This led to a variety of employments as a movie house cashier, a laboratory technician at the Mead Johnson Company, and a chemist with the Indiana State Geological Survey. Along the way, she married a high-school classmate, Harvey Greene, in 1956. They produced four charming and intelligent children while living in Terre Haute, Evansville, and Indianapolis.
During this time, Beth became a political activist, becoming a key member of the unsuccessful U. S. senatorial campaign of William Ruckelshaus in 1968. Nevertheless. this led to Beth’s service as journal clerk and then principal secretary of the Indiana State Senate in the 1970s, working closely with Governor Otis (“Doc”) Bowen and Lt. Governor Robert D. Orr, also from Evansville. While there, she pushed “her” fifty Indiana senators to pass Indiana’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, as Indiana in 1977 became the last state to ratify this amendment in the 20th century. Later in the 1970s, now divorced, Beth was a single parent struggling to raise her children while serving as the administrative assistant to lawyers in Noblesville and Indianapolis.
Next, she and a partner created the Legal Registry, a placement service for attorneys, which was the first of its kind. Later, she founded her own business, Action Writing, to help young jobseekers improve their resumés and job applications until she accepted a position in 1995 at the IUPUI Library as administrative assistant to the head librarian. There she met her future husband, Professor Gray, on her first day of working at IUPUI.
In 2003, Beth and Ralph eloped to Florida and they resided in Indianapolis. The couple retired to Bloomington in 2009, living first in the Meadowood Retirement Center and then the Bell Trace Senior Living Community. In addition to assisting with Ralph’s professional writings, Beth, already a book author and magazine columnist, wrote additional books, articles, essays, soliloquys, and more. She also became a self-taught artist taking up painting in oils and acrylics, proving her great talent in another medium. Outgoing to all, she was loved by her large extended family and adored by all who knew her. She will be greatly missed by friends and family.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the IU Health Foundation Hospice House Fund, 714 S. Rogers St. Room 402, Bloomington, IN 47403.
Online condolences may be expressed to the family at www.DayDeremiahFrye.com
Celebration of Life
Sunday, October 18, 2020
Beth Van Vorst Gray
October 17, 2020
To Professor Gray and all of Beth's cherished Family:
My memories of Beth are from the Art Class at Bell Trace and of the great enthusiasm and joy that Beth brought to her art work. She would try any medium and her creativity was amazing.
Her Kitchen Table Talk book is on my bedside table and is a constant reminder of her deep love for family and her caring spirit.
I extend my condolences to all of Beth's family. Her joy in life is a constant inspiration to me.
May 25, 2020
Sending love, caring, and sympathy to Beth's family. Although I've not met you personally, I feel like I know you. I heard many stories about each of you.
I learned to know Beth when she worked as a Law Firm Administrator. I looked forward to business trips to Indianapolis because she always took time to show me the city and surrounds.
She also introduced my husband and me to the Indy 500. We were hooked and still watch it each Memorial Day.
May warm memories of the many good times you shared with Beth help to sustain you as you grieve your loss.
March 29, 2020
Back in 1995, five of us from North Church got together weekly at IUPUI from 7-7:50 AM for a little devotional but mostly talking. Besides myself and Beth, there were Robin Lipp, Anita Simmons, and Kristen Quam, AND to our great delight, Rev. Hamilton accepted our invitation to join us. Each week one of us led but it was mostly discussion with Rev Hamilton as resource and counselor. We five women connected during those months. It was a special time, magical as we look back on it. Within months, Robin met and married Michael Toulouse, I met and married Ken Gall, Kristen met and married Mark Fredrickson, and Beth met and married Ralph Gray. Beth told me that one day she gave up on finding a special person for her life, and would just like someone interesting to have dinner with, and that very day she was walking a hallway at IUPUI as Ralph happened toward her, and she thought he'd be a fun conversationalist, so she boldly said, "Ralph, would you like to have dinner sometime?" That's how they got started together. Ken and I have visited them at both retirement places in Bloomington. I will miss her laugh, big smile, and considerable life-energy.
Jerry and Phyllis Mattheis
March 4, 2020
Thanks to Jill Chambers for notifying former members of the IWHA and for sharing Beth's obituary. Beth and Jill are the two members that I remember best.
We were so happy for Beth and Ralph when they married.
I feel blessed that we knew them, even though we seldom saw each other.
Our sincere condolences to Ralph and all the family.
Phyllis and Jerry, Cambridge City
March 3, 2020
Beth and I always had the best time when she was President of the Indiana Women's History Association. She was bright, talented and sparkly. We had fond memories of the campaign to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in 1977 and certainly wanted to save all the Indiana women's history we could. I missed her when she and Ralph retired to Bloomington. She had many friends here in Indianapolis and will be remembered as a great good woman.
March 2, 2020
I am so sorry to hear of Beth's passing. Please know that your many friends in the School of Liberal Arts are thinking of you and fondly remembering Beth.
March 1, 2020
So sorry to learn of Beth's passing, Ralph. I recall so vividly Beth's upbeat personality as she kept PEP's office humming on Cavanaugh's fifth floor and her later help with the Institute. Aleta and I send our deepest condolences.
Julie and Julie Hall
March 1, 2020
While we didn’t have the privilege of personally knowing Beth, we know that she was well loved by Jim and Carolyn and will be greatly missed. Our thoughts and prayers to all of the family.
February 29, 2020
Dolores and I extend our deepest sympathy to you, Ralph, and to the family. We have fond memories of Beth when we often met at one occasion or another at IUPUI and other events. All our best to you.
February 29, 2020
Prof. Ralph Gray:
Ralph, you have my sincere sympathy at the loss of Beth. I remember her through the University, North Church, and a stop at your garage in Indianapolis to select a few books as you were closing out your scholarly accumulation over the years. It is great that you two were able to spend a number of years together. Peter Sehlinger has shared the charming story of your wedding in Key West, and that has to be a great memory for you. Ralph, you have my prayers for comfort and strength. Very best wishes, Victor Childers
Robin Van Vorst
February 27, 2020
So many things I could say about my Aunt Beth...but the greatest is the love for her family! She was beautiful, classy, and oh so smart! She loved life, and was just so kind! I’ll miss her greatly, as I know her kids will for sure! Praying for peace...❤️
John Van Vorst
February 27, 2020
An amazing person my Aunt Beth. So many fond memories growing up. I always enjoyed talking to Aunt Beth, debating issues at times, and have always admired her intellect and love. My heart goes out to my cousins and their families, of course to Ralph, and to my uncles and their families. So many folks affected by the loss of a great friend, a great loving caring person.