A champion of the maritime armed forces community and the organizer of Fort Lauderdale’s Fleet Week, Mary Anne Gray was laid to rest Saturday with a burial at sea.
Gray, who served as president and executive director of Broward Navy Days, died on July 2 of complications from a stroke. She was 76.
Led by the U.S. Coast Guard, a flotilla of ships departed from Pier 66 Marina in Fort Laudedale and traveled three miles offshore for the ceremony. With family members and Coast Guard officers aboard, Gray’s remains were lowered into the sea.
Broward County Mayor Dale Holness, who was also on hand for the ceremony, designated July 25, 2020 as Mary Anne Gray Remembrance Day.
A longtime figure in the South Florida community, Gray previously led the local Manatee Survival Foundation and later served as chair of the Port Everglades Authority. Over the past 10 years, she organized the annual Fleet Week Port Everglades, which features Navy and Coast Guard ships that are open for public tours while its sailors come ashore for R&R and community service projects.
During her time with the organization, she was consistently an advocate for the military.
“She was very persistent,” Port Everglades deputy director Glenn Wiltshire said. “Very focused on providing that outstanding experience for the sailors, the Marines, the Coast Guard, all the military services that were involved in Fleet Week and other events throughout the year.”
“She was very personable, easy to get along with, fun loving, and dedicated to the cause that she saw — supporting the men and women of our armed services.”
In addition, Gray chaired the commissioning of the Navy destroyer U.S.S. Paul Ignatius at Port Everglades.
Alexandra Aganostis, who worked with Gray as a Broward Navy Days board member, said Gray’s determined, “infectious” personality rubbed off on everyone and helped make Fleet Week a consistent success in South Florida.
“She was just a cheerleader for everything she believed in”, Aganostis said. “A cheerleader for our maritime community here in South Florida and anything that you personally were involved in, she would want to cooperate and collaborate whether it be professional, personal or family-wise. She was really just bigger than life. She was amazing, absolutely amazing.”
While Gray didn’t have a military background, Aganostis said her persistence and determination allowed her to make quick inroads and become a reliable ally for the armed forces community.
“Since she got to South Florida, she immediately got involved and really broke through some of the barriers,” Aganostis said. “And she never would say, ‘I’m a woman in this maritime community that’s traditionally male-dominated.' She would never say that, but it is. She really just led the way.”
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