Obituary: John Bouvier Bray
A memorial service for John Bouvier Bray of Verona, formerly of Montclair, who died peacefully on Oct. 24, 2021, surrounded by friends and family, will be held this month in Montclair. Mr. Bray was 76.
He was born in Paris in 1945 and spent his early childhood in the rural French village of Vaux-sous-Aubigny. He moved to New Orleans at age 6, and also lived in Atlanta, Plainfield, Minneapolis; London; Bruges, Belgium; Boston and Montreal.
Mr. Bray received a B.A. in American and English literature, summa cum laude, from Syracuse University and completed M.A. coursework at the University of Minnesota in American studies. He also received an M.A. in peace studies from Antioch College for an independent project in England, where he interfaced on cultural conflict resolution projects with religious and NGO groups, the BBC and the United Nations.
Throughout his life, Mr. Bray loved French culture and wrote about how it found expression in and enriched this country.
He served as a French translator for U.S. Army intelligence in the Congo in the early 1960s.
He supported himself as a sales professional in greenhouse design and ergonomic furniture during the late 1980s, in Boston and Montreal.
Joining family — Michele Bray and Lillian West — in Verona and Montclair in 1991, he sold printing for Accent Press for five years, followed by launching his own Verona Books, for which he collected and sold rare and first-edition books at regional book fairs.
More recently, Mr. Bray found joy in the community of the Laning Elementary School in Verona, where he served as a crossing guard from 2008-2018. He loved being outdoors in nature, greeting schoolchildren by name and getting to know their parents. He held salon-like conversations on a wide range of topics after his guarding hours.
A member and employee of the Mother Church in Boston in the early 1980s, Mr. Bray was, beginning in 1991, a member of Montclair’s Christian Science Church.
He was a lifelong scholar in historic Christianity and an avid student of religion and healing, and of world spirituality, especially Indian.
Mr. Bray was cultured and intellectual, a nature lover, a poet; a talented and sensitive community organizer, and a devoted family person. He was also fun to be around, as a witty and bold raconteur.
With his distinct personality, strong and probing values, and range of pursuits and interests, his key life achievement is that he did whatever he did with love. As Vincent van Gogh said: “What is done with love is done well.”
Mr. Bray is survived in Europe by his son, Christopher Van Hemelryck-Bray; his former wife, Anny; his grandson, Casper; and three siblings. In Verona, he is survived by his long-term partner, Sheila Getzen.
A private memorial for family and friends will be held in Montclair this month.