Ailleen M. Cray
Heaven’s choir added an extraordinary soprano when Ailleen Marie Engelmann Cray —beloved mother, sister, friend and colleague — entered God’s realm December 27, 2016 after a year-long battle with cancer.
Ailleen was born September 23, 1948 in Cleveland, Ohio to Parents Richard R. and Rita A. Foley Engelmann then moved to Des Moines, Iowa, before settling in Davenport, Iowa, where Ailleen attended St. Paul’s School, followed by Assumption High School. She graduated from Rosary College in Chicago with a degree in English and Theater Arts. She was a member of the Quad Cities Genesius Guild, a community theater group specializing in classic Greek and Shakespearean drama.
In 1970, Ailleen married Thomas Cray and had to two children; daughter Michelle and son Thomas. A devoted member of church and active community volunteer, Ailleen eventually put her energy, enthusiasm and organizational skills to work in service to others, overseeing years of successful fundraising as Director of the United Way in Garden City, Manhattan and Junction City, Kansas. She was honored by Rotary International for the entirety of her contributions in August, 2016 when she was named a Paul Harris Fellow.
In addition to the United Way, her mentoring skills were put to good use as director of the Flint Hills Regional Leadership Program, a training institute for future leaders in the area. Ailleen served in this role for almost 20 years, fostering community involvement and as an inspiration to scores of participants.
As a long-time member of St. Isidore’s Catholic Church in Manhattan she served as a Eucharistic Minister and Lector. She later used her love of music and performance as a dedicated member of the choir. As a member of the choir she fulfilled a life-long dream of traveling to Europe with the choir and performed on two trips to Italy. These travels were some of her most cherished memories, topped only by the joy she felt whenever she practiced and performed at her beloved “St. Izzy’s”.
Ailleen Cray has provided us all with an example of selfless living. Her compassion for others coupled with her dedication to helping others in tangible ways shows us all how we can, and should, live our lives – with consideration, with compassion, with understanding and with generosity. Mary Oliver beautifully describes Ailleen’s life and commitments in “The Summer Day” when she wrote,
“Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?”
Our world is lesser for the loss of her light, though Ailleen, even now, challenges us to take her place, to take up her mantle, to commit our “one precious life” to the betterment of others.
Ailleen is survived by her two children: daughter Michelle and her husband Richard Meier and son Josh Meier, and Ailleen’s son Thomas Cray, Jr.; seven siblings: Richard Engelmann and his wife Sally, Dr. Gary Engelmann and his wife Lynn, Karen Engelmann Ulfers and her husband Erik, Matthew Engelmann and his wife Kathy, Jeffrey Engelmann and his wife Barbara, Charles Engelmann and his wife Luanne and Brian Engelmann and his wife Tracey; numerous nieces, nephews and extended family.
A Memorial Mass will be held at 10:00 A.M. Monday, January 16th, at the St. Isidore Catholic Student Center with Father Michael Demkovich as celebrant. Inurnment will be at a later date in Davenport, Iowa.
Online condolences may be left for the family by clicking on "Send Condolences" on this page.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Junction City United Way, American Cancer Society or the St. Isidore Catholic Student Center. Contributions may be left in care of the Yorgensen-Meloan-Londeen Funeral Home, 1616 Poyntz Avenue, Manhattan, KS 66502.