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Robert John Stevens Gray

October 7, 1929 — January 12, 2023


It is with profound sadness that the Gray family announces the passing of Professor Robert John Stevens “R.J.” Gray, on January 12, 2023, with his loving family at his side.
R.J.’s life was full of purpose and passion. His was a life well-lived in every imaginable facet.
R.J. was a husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, mentor, guide, teacher and a defender of dreams. Thousands of legal students benefited from his love, guidance and pragmatic  advice.
He loved deeply and was deeply loved.
R. J. was born in Floral Park, New York on October 7, 1929 to Rollie and Wilma Gray, and grew up in west Toronto. Graduating from Humberside Collegiate Institute in 1948, he attended Trinity College at the University of Toronto, where he graduated with a BA degree in 1952.
R.J. continued his studies at the University of Toronto Law School, which at the time, was in the midst of transforming legal education in Ontario under the leadership of Dean Cecil Wright.
During his seven years at the University of Toronto, R.J. belonged to the Phi Kappa Pi Fraternity, and also played and coached a variety of sports including football, Varsity Blues’ hockey, basketball, curling and lacrosse. He served as Captain on many of the teams, as well as serving in a multitude of leadership positions with the Trinity College Athletic Association.
After graduating top of his class from the University of Toronto Law School in 1955, R.J. clerked at one of the top Toronto litigation law firms, Haines, Thomson, Rogers, Benson & Howie (now known as Thomson Rogers) where he claims to have spent most of his time picking up the dry-cleaning of various partners.  R.J.  always claimed that the meagre $25 a week  he earned in his year of articling necessitated he supplement his income by working as a “stringer” writing stories about University sports  for the Toronto Globe and Mail.
While articling, R.J. married the love of his life, Lillian Ruth Kelly, also known as “Kelly”, in February 1956. R.J. met Kelly after she left the family tobacco farm in Delhi, Ontario to attend the Toronto General Hospital School of Nursing.  It was love at first sight and to facilitate his courtship of Kelly, R.J. worked his considerable charms on the residence receptionist to allow for looking the other way when Kelly didn’t make curfew.
At the time of R.J.’s passing, Kelly and R.J. were approaching their 67th wedding anniversary.
This is an astonishing accomplishment and Kelly’s children believe she is deserving of sainthood for having put up with R.J.  for a lifetime, and most importantly, for caring for him so well in his final days.
At the time R.J. finished articling, the Law Society of Ontario did not recognize his University of Toronto Law School degree as sufficient to be admitted to the Bar in Ontario, so  R.J. spent a year attending Osgoode Hall Law School and was called to the Ontario Bar in 1957.
After his call to the Bar, R.J. and Kelly moved to Berkeley, California where R.J. pursued his Masters Degree in Law at the prestigious University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (formerly known as Boalt Hall). R.J. always claimed that his pursuit of higher legal education was partially motivated by economic factors, as he claimed the scholarship being offered by Berkeley was valued at much more than he could have earned as a first-year associate at a Toronto law firm. Financial considerations became an important factor as he and Kelly had already had their first child.
While attending law school at Berkeley, R.J. wrote a Masters thesis entitled “Private Wrongs of Public Servants” which was published in the California Law Review in 1959.
R.J. defended this thesis in front of a committee which included the world renowned tort scholar, William Prosser, and would end up being R.J.’s last attempt at legal scholarship.
Notably, the legal positions put forward in R.J.’s thesis have been cited and followed by the Supreme Court of the United States in several judgments over the years.
After graduating with his LLM in 1958, R.J. and Kelly returned to Toronto where R.J. found employment as a lecturer at the Osgoode Hall Law School.  R.J. spent the next 42 years teaching at Osgoode Hall, eventually becoming a Professor and the Assistant Dean of Students, and perhaps most importantly, the coach of the Osgoode Owl basketball team.
When he first arrived at Osgoode in 1959, R.J. taught real estate law, a topic he had very little interest or background in. He was the first to say that he barely managed to stay one chapter ahead of his students in the casebook that year.
During his tenure at Osgoode, R.J. primarily taught torts to first year students, advanced torts, and in the early 70’s, he and his great friend Gilbert Sharpe developed and ran one of the first Medical Legal programs offered at any Canadian law school.
R.J. was famous for his support of Osgoode students and would often be found loitering around the rooms where the first-year students were taking their first law exams. He knew from experience that some would panic, and become so nervous that they would walk out of the exam, and he wanted to be there to provide them with an encouraging pep talk and send them back (or “give them a kick in the ass” as he described it) in to finish their exam.
R.J. was also famous for the hilarious, tortuous legal situations that Elmo Grape, the name of the usual protagonist in his tort law exam questions, would find himself. There was always much laughter throughout  the exam hall before his students could settle into identifying the legal issues needing addressing in their answers to the exam questions. Many of those exam answers remained sitting in piles in R.J.’s office for decades until his retirement from Osgoode in the year 2000.
R.J.’s 42 years of academic excellence were celebrated with a gala dinner at the Royal York Hotel attended by over 700 people. R.J. was hilariously roasted by Ontario Court of Appeal Justice and former Osgoode Hall Dean, Jim MacPherson, about his failure to produce any legal scholarship in the 40+ years since R.J. had written “Private Wrongs of Public Servants”.
R.J. was also known for his great sense of humour and could frequently be found in the Junior Common Room at Osgoode socializing with his students.
He was famous for his open door policy, although those who ventured into his office may have had difficulty finding their way out, given the stacks of papers and books that graced the floors.
While teaching at Osgoode, R.J. had the privilege of being elected by members of the Ontario legal profession to be a Bencher of the Law Society of Ontario. Benchers act as directors of the Law Society and regulators of the legal profession. Although R.J. was honoured to be voted into this prestigious position, he thought the best part of being appointed a Bencher were the wonderful dinners that were held at Osgoode Hall with his fellow Benchers which often included some of the excellent wine kept in the wine cellars at Osgoode Hall.
R.J. grew up playing and coaching multiple different sports and his competitive career as an athlete extended to being a player/coach for a basketball team called the Grayhounds, which competed at the 1989 World Masters Games held in Denmark. The Grayhound’s trip home from Denmark was an eventful one, as it included an emergency landing at the Reykjavík, Iceland airport which of course was followed by the Grayhounds celebrating their survival by consuming all the duty-free liquor purchased prior to their departure.
R.J.’s love of sports was passed on to his children and grandchildren. R.J. coached multiple sports, with baseball and basketball being his favourites and he believed he knew more about most sports than anybody else. He never coached any of his children, but he took great joy in watching them play their games, excel and compete in their sports, often hiding somewhere out of sight because he was so nervous watching them, but probably more likely so that he would not have the necessary proximity to bait the referees about their questionable calls.
R.J. was very proud of his children’s accomplishments in the sporting world, including his son Rob’s competing in the discus event at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los  Angeles, and the silver medal won by grandson Doug Csima in the men’s eight rowing event at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
R.J., a huge sports fan, had season tickets for many years for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Blue Jays and Toronto Argonauts. Up until the Leafs departure from Maple Leaf Gardens in 1999, R.J.  would annually send a letter to the Leafs ticket office, unsuccessfully asking that his Leaf season tickets in the greens, be moved closer to centre ice, because that was where former owner Conn Smythe used to sit.
When R.J.  finally gave up his Argo season tickets in 1983, the Argos won the Grey Cup for the first time in 31 years. The family joke became that the Leaf season tickets should not be renewed, with the hope that history would repeat itself and the Leafs would end their now 56-year history of futility and failure with respect to winning the Stanley Cup.
R.J. was famous for describing players on his favourite teams either as being a “character” player, or not. He was certain the recent editions of the Toronto Maple Leafs did not have enough “character” players willing to pay the price to win the Cup; a view shared by many of those in the Gray family who grew up playing sports and aspiring to be thought of as “character” players in their father’s eyes.
R.J. and Kelly also spent considerable time over the past 30 years wintering in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, often happily joined by other Gray family members. R.J. was famous for producing his annual guide to the restaurants in Puerto Vallarta. It was probably tougher for a restaurant to make R.J.’s list than it would be for the restaurant to be included in the Michelin Guide, as the first requirement in making R.J.’s list was that the restaurant had to be discovered by R.J.
R.J.’s massive impact was felt on everyone he met. He was a man of immense kindness and selflessness. His humour, thoughtfulness, compassion, strength, loyalty, intelligence, love for Irish music, family pets and Monty Python humour, were only a few of the traits that made him the amazing person he was.
R.J. has left a remarkable legacy and will be deeply missed by all those who knew him.
R.J. is survived by Kelly, his wife of 66 years; his children Robert, Katherine (Les), Patricia (Dave) Peter and William (Kaye); his sisters Katherine Weary and Jane Pilaar; his grandchildren Trevor (Farrah), Lisa, Doug (Megan) and Tom (Cléa) Csima and, Stephen, Michael (Carly) and Samuel Gray; and his great-grandchildren Dylan, Willy, Lillian, Élio, Séquoïa and Gray Csima.
R.J. was predeceased by his beloved son Thomas Gray, and his beautiful daughter-in-law Elizabeth LeBlanc Gray.
The Gray family extends their heartfelt gratitude to the many wonderful PSW’s who supported and provided R.J. with compassionate and tender care over the past few years. Worthy of special note, Kay, who R.J. fondly nicknamed “Cruella”; Alexandria, “The Portuguese Princess”; Jocelyn, “Cooligan”; “Luscious” Linda; Rose “of Washington Square”, and nurses, Delio, Camille and Sandra.

A celebration of R.J.’s life will be held at Osgoode Hall Law School on February 11, 2023 at 2:00 pm  and a private family interment will also be held at the cemetery in Baysville, Ontario.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to a cancer charity of your choice, or to the R.J. Gray Award at Osgoode Hall Law School. Near and dear to R.J.’s heart, this award offers assistance to Osgoode students in financial need, who participate in extracurricular activities such as  university athletics while demonstrating outstanding academic achievement.
Please see the following link for information about the scholarship fund and the Osgoode Hall celebration of R.J.’s life.

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