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Norma Jean (Seay) Gray

July 6, 1929 ~ April 18, 2019 (age 89)

Norma J. (Seay) Gray, 89, of Huntington passed away on Thursday, April 18, 2019. Born on July 6, 1929, Norma was the daughter of the late Letcher and Ada Cook Seay.  In addition to her parents she was preceded in death by her husband, Howard Gray, sisters Thelma Seay and Kathleen Seay Linn, and brothers Maurice Seay, Stanley Seay, and John Seay.  Surviving are her daughter, Barbara Gebhard (Paul) of Cross Lanes, WV and grandsons Derek Merrill of Charleston, WV and Dylan Merrill (Sarah) of Lexington, Kentucky. Norma graduated from Huntington East High School, held a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a master’s degree in Educational Administration from Marshall University, and earned an Ed.D in Educational Administration from West Virginia University.  She started her early childhood career coordinating a church nursery, teaching private kindergarten, and teaching Head Start in the first two summers of the program.  Norma then taught for five years at Cabell Elementary using an innovative method of teaching reading called ITA, before moving to Guyandotte Elementary to teach one of the first public school kindergarten classes in Cabell County.  She spent a semester supervising student teachers at Marshall University. In 1972, Norma became the first director of Region III Child Development Services, designed to demonstrate appropriate programs for preschool children.  The agency established child care centers and home-based services such as early intervention and parent education throughout 9 counties.  When staff training and child care resource and referral services expanded to other areas of the state in 1990, the agency’s name was changed to River Valley Child Development Services.  After 27 years as director, Norma retired in 1998. Norma received many state and national awards for her commitment to high-quality, innovative services for young children and the families and providers who care for them.  These included West Virginia Advocate for Young Children, Lewis Hine Award from the National Child Labor Committee, Distinguished West Virginian, Southern Early Childhood Association’s President’s Award, Huntington Wall of Fame, and Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundation’s Women’s Philanthropy Society. In addition to her professional accomplishments, Norma loved music, playing first the accordion and then the string bass.  She played in dance bands over a 25-year period.  She enjoyed listening to music, reading, and shopping.  Norma was a member of Fifth Avenue Baptist Church and Delta Kappa Gamma society for women educators.  She was a resident of the Woodlands Retirement Community.A memorial service will be held on Monday, April 22 at 2 pm at Beard Mortuary with Rev. Alicia Porterfield officiating, with visitation beginning at 1 pm.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to River Valley Child Development Services, 611 7th Avenue, 25701; Fifth Avenue Baptist Church, 1135 Fifth Avenue, 25701; or Hospice of Huntington, 1101 Sixth Avenue, 25701.

Donations may be made to:

Hospice of Huntington
1101 6th Avenue, Huntington WV 25701
Tel: 1-304-529-4217

Fifth Avenue Baptist Church
1135 5th Avenue, Huntington WV 25701

River Valley Child Development Services
611 7th Avenue, Huntington WV 25701

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