Anita Gray, a 64-year resident of Sun Valley, died on Wednesday, May 4, 2011, of natural causes.
Anita, known by all as "Nietz," was involved in the creation of many of the institutions taken for granted in our valley. She was one of the original 17 local ladies who chipped in $1 to start the Gold Mine thrift store in 1956. The sale of donated second-hand goods would generate the funds to build The Community Library in Ketchum. Nietz, along with a different group of women, was responsible for the addition of kindergarten to the Blaine County school curriculum.
When a rope tow lift was added to the hill above the Ketchum cemetery, called Kinderhorn, she, with a group of other mothers, formed the Papoose Club to help create a winter, youth after-school ski program. They brought hot chocolate, cookies and hot dogs for the young ski stars as well as chaperoning them while they were skiing.
She was instrumental in building a new Catholic church in the 1970's on the site where Our Lady of the Snows stands today.
Nietz was born in Chicago, Illinois, and attended Sacred Heart Academy, Bennett College and The Chicago Art Institute. She enjoyed painting many of the local landscapes over the years, often with friends.
Nietz met her husband, Winton Gray, in her hometown of Chicago, Illinois. She drove trucks as a volunteer for the Women's Motor Corps to move war material from factories in Chicago to the West Coast, during World War II. Win Gray was a logistics officer on convalescent leave at the Great Lakes Naval Station there. They married in 1946 and moved to Buhl, Win's hometown, later that year.
Anita and Win moved into a home they built on Sun Valley Lake in 1948 and Anita lived there until her death. During that time, they raised two sons, who still live in the area. She taught her children to hunt, hike, fish, ski and play bridge, activities that they enjoy to this day.
During the tempos of the various seasons in the Wood River Valley, Anita loved skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, gardening, doing cookouts and visiting Redfish Lake. She was an accomplished golfer and won many local and statewide tournaments. On any given day you might run into her coming from hunting, having a drink at the Christiania, or plein-air painting with a friend, black Labrador dog in tow.
Anita enjoyed traveling, and was able to spend some time in Europe. When acquaintances from all over the world arrived in Sun Valley, often they would find themselves at the Grays, where Nietz was an excellent hostess.
Anita was a good friend of one of the Valley's most prominent part-time residents, Ernest Hemingway. Often she and Win would watch the Friday night fights in one of the many homes that Papa rented during those times. He was a frequent visitor to her home on the lake in Sun Valley.
Later in life she was honored by the City of Sun Valley by being elected to the Blaine County Heritage Court. She enjoyed the limelight once again during that time.
The Valley has lost one of the people who collectively made this area a place that attracted many of us who live here. With her unstinting efforts to "civilize" the "Wild West," she helped build this special place that exists today.
She is survived by her two sons, Peter (Betty) and Jed (Fran) Gray of Blaine County; six grandchildren, Ward Gray of Hailey, Carolyn Gray of Nashville, Tennessee, Michael Gray of Indianapolis, Indiana, Andrew Monahan (Sarah) of Atlanta, Georgia; Lindsey Armeen (Joseph) of San Francisco, California; DeIda (Duane) Runswick of Blaine County; and two great-grandchildren, Camille Armeen and Skylar Runswick
Anita was laid to rest next to her husband, Win, at the Ketchum Cemetery. A memorial will be planned for June or July.
Anita's family requests that any donations in her memory be made to the Croy Canyon Ranch Foundation to build the full service senior care facility.
Arrangements are under the care of Wood River Chapel, and friends are invited to leave condolences and share memories at www.woodriverchapel.com.