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The Green City Chamber of Commerce is proud to announce Mike and Janie Gray as the 2023 Parade Marshal for the annual July 4 celebration. Mike and Janie spent most of their lives and raised their family in the Sullivan County area, and have certainly left a mark on the community.
Mike’s well-known ornery streak started young when the rebellious 5 year old ran away from
kindergarten and had to be tracked down to his favorite hiding spot in Milan. His mother knew
just where to find him and unfortunately for Mike, he was promptly returned to his classroom.
Mike’s father worked the A&P Grocery in Milan for over 30 years and his mother had her own
sewing and dress shop on the square. Mike’s love for farming started at a young age and was the
only “city kid” to have livestock exhibits in the Milan FFA program.
Janie was born and raised in Green City with her parents Don and Lillian Albertson. She worked alongside her folks on the family farm and after graduating from Green City R-1 in 1963, she pursued a college degree from Truman State University in Kirksville for a B.S. in Education with a K-12 Physical Education certificate. She’s worked in education since that graduation in 1967.
During that time, Mike graduated from Milan High School and went to Kansas City working for
Fisher Body GMAC before being drafted to the U.S. Army in 1966. Mike was a homebody and dreaded going away from home. When he got his assignment to transfer to Germany for 19 months in ’67 he was declared AWOL for a few days because he had to visit his mother one more time before he left. Mike says that looking back, the time he spent traveling through Europe still provides some of his fondest memories.
Upon his return and the end of his military service, he went back to work at General Motors in
Kansas City. He married Janie, who he claims to have had an eye on for a while, but Janie
laughingly says it was the 1969 convertible Corvette that turned her head. They’ve been married
for 54 years.
After the death of Janie’s oldest brother Denny, the Gray family, with their first son, Jeff, moved back to Green City. They worked together with the Albertson’s on their family farm just south of Green City. Mike is proud of his work on the farm and for his family, but the financial crisis of the ‘80s was unrelenting no matter how hard they worked. Mike smiles and says, “We lost a lot, but I don’t regret it. I always wanted to farm, and I got to do what I love my whole life.”
Janie put her college degree to work first as a social worker and in 1973 she started her career as
“Coach” at Green City R-1, retiring in 2002. She taught K-12 classes, coached high school
athletics, started the dance teams, and has a whole resume of accomplishments and accolades that include several national level recognitions for her teaching and impact on students and colleagues. After her retirement, Janie changed her title from “Coach” to “Miss Janie” and went back to work, launching the Parents As Teachers program in the Green City School district to
help families prepare their kids for school. She clearly loves her work and the children she’s
impacted. This year, she’s served the Green City School district for 50 continuous years.
Undeniably their proudest accomplishment is their 4 boys, now grown men with families of their
own. Jeff, Troy (wife Brooke, and sons Caden and Blaine), Scott (wife Angie, daughters
Ashtynn and Paytynn) and Lucas (wife Jen). Both Janie and Mike are humble in talking about
their own resume’s and accomplishments, but don’t hold back in sharing the list of things their
kids and grandkids have done and are continuing to work for.
The boys grew up on horseback alongside their dad and Janie keeping them all organized, jeans
patched, and headed in the right direction. The boys showed horses, cattle, and sheep at regional and state 4-H and FFA shows, and of course rodeos. Janie laughed at the memories of their single cab pickup and beat up trailer headed down the road with the whole family, livestock, sandwiches in the coolers, and tent rolls all ready for camping at various fairs and rodeos.
The last years have been difficult with Mike’s serious injuries from a car accident in August 2020, and the loss of Janie’s dear friend Jo in October of the same year. Mike’s recovery has been difficult and he still struggles with pain. He hopes to help Jeff in the hay field this summer and tries to get out as much as he can. Janie continues to her persistent pace of work, travel, and volunteering for any number of causes. She plans to continue working for the school district, for now.
Mike and Janie are gracious in their praise of the Green City community, recognizing the friends who supported them and their family through some of the tough times. But, equally humble in answering any questions about their own volunteer projects, work in the community and the
support they’ve lent folks. “It’s just what you do,” is all they would say when asked about the many community undertakings they’ve been a part of.
As the 2023 Green City Parade Marshals, Mike and Janie Gray will lead the parade on the 4th
of July at 11:30 am. A full schedule of events for the holiday can be found on Facebook and
in the Green City Press. Free kids activities will be held throughout the day with fireworks closing out the celebration at dark. The Green City Chamber of Commerce invites everyone
to join in the celebration on the Green City Square,