Mary James Wray has been a caregiver for most of her life.
The 70-year-old has taken care of her mother and brother, became a schoolteacher and a pastor. Part of her ministry as a pastor is encouraging and supporting caregivers.
But before Wray became a teacher or a pastor, all she really wanted to do was be an elevator operator. Wray says she liked how the operators opened the door and “they were so nice.”
It became clear to her that that was not her calling – but being a teacher was.
Wray worked 37 years as an elementary school teacher, teaching first through sixth grades, before she retired in 2010. She worked in various schools, including Bunche, Weisser Park, Franke Park and Northcrest.
Following retirement, she felt she wasn't done with teaching so she became a substitute teacher at the start of the school year after her retirement. However, she was continually put on long-term assignments, something she didn't really like.
She figured if she was going to work like that she would call her own shots and applied to become a teacher's assistant. And that's what's she's been doing the last few years. She currently is a teaching assistant at Adams Elementary School.
“I haven't really retired retired,” Wray says.
Wray stayed and worked in Fort Wayne Community Schools, the same school system she attended. Wray was born and raised in Fort Wayne and graduated from South Side High School.
She still lives in the home where she spent most of her life. It was left to her by her mother after she passed away.
Wray spent years caring for her mother then later her brother, who passed away in 2018.
It was, and still is, hard for Wray to deal with her brother's death. She says she is the only one left in her family aside from cousins. However, she does have four women who have “adopted” her, she says, one which has been her friend more than 30 years.
The years caring for her family is one of the reasons Wray is so passionate about caregiving. It was one of the ministries she started at Fulfillment in Christ Ministries, where she is pastor. Wray says the majority of her congregants are caretakers or previous caretakers – the bulk of them women.
“I never really wanted to preach,” Wray says. However, her former pastor saw that it was a calling for her and urged Wray to pursue the profession. She started taking pastoral classes and has now been preaching 17 years.
When Wray does have down time, she likes to “Read, read, read,” she says. Her favorite reading material is anything having to do with the Gospel. Wray says she got her love of reading from her mother.
It also led to her writing a book, “A Book of Daily Journaling on Christ's Word.” The book offers a place for people to write their thoughts and comments about daily Scripture readings.
It is her faith and the women who are her friends that have helped her get over the tough spots in her life. It's why she has no plans to quit being a pastor or a teacher.
It just confirms her life's role of being a caregiver.
This once-a-month feature profiles northeast Indiana residents who are age 65 and older. If you would like to submit a senior for possible publication, email Terri Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org.