Leslie Ann Gray died on Sept. 28, 2021, in her West Tisbury home, with her husband at her side. She lived bravely with metastatic breast cancer for nearly six years, determined to make the most of each day, continuing many hobbies and visits with friends. She was 72.
Leslie was loved and admired for her passionate interests, curiosity, creativity, and open, warm heart. She brought her joyous spirit and mastery to music, watercolor, skiing, and outdoor adventure, travel, digital technology, and teaching American history.
Leslie was born on June 14, 1949, in North Easton to Gerald and Barbara Gray, who were both physicians. Inspired by her history teacher at Oliver Ames High School, Leslie earned her B.A. in education at George Washington University, and M.A. in applied history at George Mason University. She taught high school history for 30-plus years with the Fairfax County (Virginia) Public Schools, outside Washington D.C. Leslie was a classroom teacher, central office resource teacher, and coordinator of history curriculum, teacher of advanced placement U.S. history, and reader of advanced placement essays for the Educational Testing Service. She chaired a department of 22 teachers and staff, providing an opportunity to mentor teachers in her craft and discipline. Prior to her retirement, she created and taught the history curriculum for the newly established Online Campus.
In her final days, Leslie wondered with a friend if she had made a difference to her students. Scores of admiring and grateful notes, emails, and Facebook posts from students and parents can leave no doubt that she did. She was recognized at the White House as a National Presidential Scholar teacher, and as Outstanding Teacher Historian by the U.S. Capitol Historical Society. She was a member and gave many conference presentations at the National Council for the Social Studies, and served as president of the Virginia Society for History Teachers.
During the first decade of her teaching career, Leslie also was a musician. She and a partner performed folk music around the D.C. club and bar scene, and for years she led the folk music liturgy at Holy Trinity Church in D.C.
After a brief marriage ended in divorce, Leslie met the love of her life, Hunter Moorman, whom she married in June 1983. They resided in Arlington, Va., until they moved permanently to the Vineyard. They bought land and built their home in 1991 on a parcel abutting the Whiting Fields on Panhandle Road in West Tisbury.
Here Leslie’s green thumb yielded wonders in the garden. Her dedication was rewarded at the annual Agricultural Fair with ribbons for “biggest tomato,” garlic, and many others. She became a skillful and inventive cook, complementing her efforts with locally sourced products whenever possible. The enthusiasms and travails of the home gardener, as well as her engaging writing style, are on display in her blog, wearemadeofdreamsandbones.blogspot.com.
Leslie volunteered with the Polly Hill Arboretum grounds crew for many years. She was also a member of the West Tisbury historic building commission, served on the board and as treasurer of the Island Food Pantry, became a board member of Island Grown Initiative, and was a longtime member and president of the Want to Know Club. She met with dear friends weekly to watercolor and enjoy one another’s company, and she became expert in tracing ancestry for family and friends.
Leslie delighted in nature and outdoor activity. She loved tennis, skiing, camping, hiking, and exploring forests and fields. She spent one memorable trip “forest bathing” in the redwoods of northern California. She and Hunter spent many happy weeks touring the cities of Europe, Mexico, and Southeast Asia, and hiked extensively in the Bernese Alps and Südtirol, as well as mountains closer to home.
Leslie was predeceased by her parents. She is survived by her husband; sister Mary Augustine of Easton; son James Wallace of Bangkok, Thailand; stepdaughter Anna-Karen Lentz, her husband Steffen, and granddaughters Alicia Noélie and Chiara Julie of Hermetschwil-Staffeln, Switzerland; sisters-in-law Anne Reeves and husband Ron of Wilbur-by-the-Sea, Fla., and Susan Southworth and husband Gus of Enfield, N.H..
The family would particularly like to acknowledge the marvelous care of the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital infusion center and Hospice and Palliative Care of M.V.
A private burial was held at the West Tisbury Cemetery on Oct. 14. A memorial service will be held at a later date.
Donations may be made to the Polly Hill Arboretum at pollyhillarboretum.org/get-involved/donate; to the Island Food Pantry (IGI) at igimv.org/donate; and to Hospice and Palliative Care of M.V. at hospiceofmv.org/donations.