David Mark Gray, who fled his native Czechoslovakia after the Soviet takeover in the ’40s and went on to be an operative with the Central Intelligence Agency during the Cold War, died at his home in Santa Rosa on July 7. He was 94.
Several days prior to his death, he suffered a heart attack, according to his family.
“He was sick for just about a week,” said his daughter Alexandra Creed of Santa Rosa. “I am grateful I was there at the end and was able to say goodbye.”
Gray had lived in the Oakmont area since 1991 where he had moved to be closer to his family, Creed said. His wife of 69 years died in 2011.
Creed described her father as a workaholic who enjoyed history and loved his adopted country
“My father was a true patriot who adored his country,” she said. “He was very passionate about it.”
Vendak Mecir was born in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia, in 1920, to a World War I veteran who fought for the Allies and his wife. He was born two years after the country gained its independence to a “well-established family” according to an account provided by his son, Denis D. Gray, a longtime Associated Press reporter stationed in the news organization’s Bangkok bureau.
When a Soviet-backed regime took over the Czechoslovakia government in 1948, Gray was forced to flee his home country, leaving behind his wife, Denise, and the couple’s two children. After his escape, he changed his name to Gray for what his son said was “security reasons”. He was recruited by the CIA, which sent an agent to Pilsen a year later to “whisk his family out of the country in a dramatic escape” according to Denis Gray’s account.
Creed, who said she didn’t know her father was in the CIA until she was in high school, said he wasn’t around much when they were children.
“We spent a lot of time together later in his life and that’s when he would tell his stories,” she said. “They were always great stories.”
Gray became a U.S. citizen and worked for a Swiss typewriter company before embarking on a long career with IBM where he rose to become vice president of the office products division, a job whose responsibilities spanned five continents, his son said. The family lived for a time in South Africa and France before settling in Greenwich, Conn., where they remained until he retired and moved with his wife to the West Coast to be near family.
During his retirement, he was asked to be on a task force for voluntarism by then president Ronald Reagan, and he and his wife attended a dinner at the White House, Creed said..
“He was very proud that he could contribute to the country he loved,” she said.
He is survived by his daughter, son and four grandchildren.
Services are scheduled for September.
Elizabeth M. Cosin