Obituary: Thomas J. Sray / Former South Fayette commissioner was advocate for physically disabled
July 19, 1957 - Jan. 16, 2016
January 22, 2016 12:00 AM
Thomas J. Sray
By Linda Wilson Fuoco / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Thomas J. Sray was a hunter who especially enjoyed helping others get to the great outdoors to participate in the sport he loved.
“He was a giver who was happiest when he was doing things for others,” said Beckie Mitchell Sray, his wife of 36 years.
Mr. Sray helped and served in many ways, including as a South Fayette commissioner from 1994 to 2014, as a local spokesman for National Mobility Awareness Month and by raising funds for the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis.
Mr. Sray, 58, died Saturday of pneumonia.
Since 1991 Mr. Sray’s mobility was dependent on a wheel chair, and he devoted much time and energy working to make mobility easier for people in wheelchairs.
Mr. Sray had been helping a friend with a home improvement project when scaffolding broke and he fell 10 feet, hitting a metal bar that fractured his spine and paralyzed his legs.
For 14 years Mr. Sray and his family have organized a yearly autumn hunt for people in wheelchairs. South Fayette public works employees and officials used sleds and other equipment to get the hunters into the woods.
“He didn’t care whether he got a deer or not,” Mrs. Sray said. “He was more concerned with everyone else getting one.”
The hunt always ended with a picnic and pig roast at the Sray home.
South Fayette officials will make sure the fall hunting tradition continues, said Ryan Eggleston, township manager.
“I worked under him for four years, and I will always remember that smile on his face and the can-do attitude,” Mr. Eggleston said. “There is so much animosity and discord in government but Tom did a great job rising above that.”
A champion of conservation efforts, Mr. Sray also successfully worked to make four South Fayette parks and playing fields accessible to wheelchairs, Mr. Eggleston said.
In 2014 South Fayette officials surprised him by putting his name on The Thomas J. Sray Municipal Building.
“He never blew his own horn,” said Dave Knauss of Keystone Coach Works, the Bethel Park company that provides “adaptive mobility equipment”. Over the years Keystone adapted a truck and two vans for Mr. Sray, and he became their spokesman for National Mobility Awareness campaigns.
“Tom never blew his own horn,” Mr. Knaus said. But awards he received included a Courage to Come Back award from the St. Francis Health Foundation in 1997 and proclamations from township, county and state officials.
Mr. Sray was a life-long resident of South Fayette. He started dating Beckie Mitchell in eight grade. They were high school sweethearts at South Fayette High School where he was a football player and she was the head cheerleader.
”It was a match made in heaven,“ Mrs. Sray said.
Mrs. Sray’s said her husband’s greatest joy was his family, including two daughters, their husbands and grandchildren Lucy and Levi Bardo and Luke and Reese Bilodeau.
He worked as a computer operator at Union Electric Steel, was a member of the Cuddy Sports Club, Cuddy VFW and the Alpine Club.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Melissa Bardo of Canonsburg and Nikki Bilodeau of South Fayette, and four grandchildren.
The Warchol Funeral Home Inc. in Bridgeville handled arrangements.
The family suggests memorial contributions to the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, 1095 NW 14th Terrace Lois Pope Life Center, Miami, Fla., 33136.
Linda Wilson Fuoco: email@example.com or 412-263-1953.