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Columbia Missourian

Leland 'Chip' McCray enjoyed flying airplanes

By Arthur Cook Bremer
November 21, 2012 | 6:23 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — Leland "Chip" McCray loved to fly his Cessna plane over the homes of his family and friends. 

"He would tip his wings back and forth, and sometimes he would be flying low enough you could see him wave," his grandson, Steven McCray, said. 

Mr. McCray flew for 40 years, making trips with his grandchildren to take in the view of Missouri from above. 

"He did it for joy riding," his daughter-in-law, Dolores McCray said. "He just enjoyed being up there and looking at the scenery."

Mr. McCray of Columbia died Monday, Nov. 19, 2012, at his home. He was 95.

He lived nearly his entire life in Hatton, which is east of Columbia in Callaway County.

Mr. McCray worked in construction, building and remodeling homes throughout Boone and Callaway counties. When he was 70, he helped build a home east of Columbia for his grandson Steven McCray, who still lives there.

Mr. McCray flew his Cessna for 40 years until he was 81. But at the outset of one flight, engine trouble with his aircraft forced him to land his plane in a field at the end of the runway.

"The FAA told my dad, (Larry McCray), that it was the best flying they'd ever seen," Steven McCray said. 

Mr. McCray suffered only minor injuries, and the plane was later repaired. But Mr. McCray never piloted a plane after that day. From time to time he would ride with other pilots, but "that wasn't as enjoyable as flying it himself," Dolores McCray said. 

Mr. McCray also had an 80-acre farm near Hatton, where in his younger years he raised turkeys and grew corn and soybeans. He stopped farming and got into the construction business during the 1960s, Dolores McCray said. He remained in construction through the 1980s.

"He was still pretty active up into his 90s," Steven McCray said. Until a few years ago, Mr. McCray would ride his tractor along the fields and mow pastures. 

Mr. McCray was born April 12, 1917, in Hatton to Albert and Sally (Stephens) McCray.

On Dec. 24, 1936, he married Doris Lee Smith. She died in 2001. On Jan. 6, 2008, he married Ruby Johnson.

He graduated from Hereford High School in Callaway County and was active in Pleasant Grove Methodist Church. 

Survivors include his wife, Ruby Johnson; a daughter, Linda Eberwein of Columbia; two sisters, Alberta Weaver of Columbia and Marjorie Anderson of Arizona; four grandchildren, Steven McCray of the Columbia area, Ron McCray, Erin Catron and Jennifer Neu; a daughter-in-law, Dolores McCray; 11 great-grandchildren; eight great-great-grandchildren; three nieces; three nephews; and other relatives and friends.

Mr. McCray's first wife, Doris Lee McCray; a brother, William McCray; and a son, Larry McCray, died earlier.

Visitation will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Memorial Funeral Home, 1217 Business Loop 70 W. Services will be conducted by the Rev. Terry Lippstrem of Pleasant Grove Methodist Church at 11 a.m. Monday at the funeral home.

Memorials can be made to the Pleasant Grove Methodist Church Cemetery Fund, 3639 Route E, Auxvasse, MO 65231; to Olivet Christian Church Cemetery Fund, 1991 S. Olivet Road, Columbia, MO 65201; or to the charity of the donor's choice.

Supervising editor is Scott Swafford.