By Sallie James
OCEAN RIDGE — Longtime Ocean Ridge resident Gerald Allen “Jerry” Goray, the dedicated chairman of the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission and a devoted philanthropist, died on June 30 of heart disease. He was weeks shy of his 81st birthday.
“He will be sadly missed,” said Mark Marsh, a colleague on the Planning and Zoning Commission who took over after Mr. Goray stepped down. “It was a pleasure to work with him. His heart and soul were in Ocean Ridge.”
The real estate developer had lived in the quiet beachside town for 30 years with his wife, Donna, and kept close watch on what type of development was permitted there. His goal was to preserve the quality, character and uniqueness of Ocean Ridge, Marsh said. Mr. Goray was also chairman of the town’s Infrastructure Surtax Citizens Oversight Committee.
“I worked with him at least seven years. Our Planning and Zoning Commission was quite parochial and we both worked to try to get it where it is today, where we have some say as to what is developed in the town,” Marsh said.
Mr. Goray was a Michigan native, born Aug. 22, 1939, in Detroit. He grew up there, attending Detroit Catholic Central High School, the University of Detroit and the University of Michigan Law School. He married his high school sweetheart, Donna, in 1958 and spent the next 62 years with her.
His wife remembered her husband as a complicated, brilliant person who loved to talk, and always tried to do better than he had done before.
“He was constantly thinking more should be done, more can be done, let’s do some more,” Donna Goray said. “Quiet wasn’t him. He loved to talk.”
Mr. Goray practiced law in Detroit for several years, became area counsel for HUD, and then co-founded a law firm specializing in real estate law.
His career in real estate development began in the 1970s, when he began building houses and developing subdivisions in suburban Detroit.
The couple moved to Florida in 1981 and built their house in Ocean Ridge in 1989. In Florida, Mr. Goray developed self-storage units, apartments, senior housing and other properties.
In 1979, Mr. Goray founded In the Pines, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to providing aﬀordable housing for low-income, immigrant farmworkers. The organization operates two low-income housing complexes in Delray Beach.
“He was always very prideful when he talked about it, but you never felt pressure to participate,” Ocean Ridge Mayor Kristine de Haseth said.
Donna Goray said her husband completely rebuilt the two apartment buildings because he was always driven to do more.
“They are absolutely lovely. Very well maintained, and really beautiful,” she said. He worked until he died, said his son Brian.
“No one ever knew he was sick until he had to quit coming to meetings. He was very humble in that way. He never wanted the limelight on himself,” de Haseth said.
Mr. Goray loved cars, contemporary art and his work.
“He enjoyed what he did,” his son Brian said. “He had a lot of friends and he enjoyed life. All of his adult life he owned one sports car or another, starting with a Corvette. His last car was a Porsche.”
People who knew him described him as witty, thoughtful, dedicated and inclusive.
“He was dedicated to the town, he was dedicated to his family or any project he got involved with, whether it was assisted living, his nonprofit, or the McCormick Mile Beach Club. Anything that was community-minded he supported,” de Haseth said.
“He always made everyone feel very warm and welcome. He was very active in the community not only in a leadership role but was also very supportive of the McCormick Mile Beach Club. Every year he would sponsor a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream truck in front of his house so the community could watch Fourth of July fireworks in his front yard.”
De Haseth also remembered Mr. Goray as forward-thinking and respectful of varying opinions.
“That made our job much easier to have that kind of leadership — well thought out, very even-handed and very well-researched. I really appreciated it. I had an even deeper respect for what Jerry did for the town after I became mayor,” she said.
Mr. Goray is survived by his wife; sons Brian and Greg; a brother, David; a sister, Christina, and numerous nieces, nephews and grandchildren.