Your Neighbor — Meet Walter Wray
Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 11, 2019
By Mandy Haggerson
For the Clemmons Courier
Dr. Walter Wray, Jr., is about to celebrate his retirement. He has been practicing medicine for 42 years, with 37 of those years spent treating patients in Clemmons.
Wray had an appreciation for North Carolina from a young age. He grew up in Gastonia as the son of two teachers. He became an Eagle Scout when he was just 14 years old. Not long after, Wray found out his family would be moving to Tallahassee, Florida, while his father got his master’s degree. “It was a tough year,” reflects Wray on starting over with friends and school. The bright shining spot was meeting his future wife, Gwen, in biology class. “Gwen is my one and only sweetheart,” smiles Wray. Recently, Gwen and Walter celebrated their 49th anniversary.
Before Gwen and Walter ended up in North Carolina, Wray stayed in Florida for college and medical school. He attributes the discipline needed to get through medical school to his time as an Eagle Scout and as a trumpeter in the band. Upon medical school graduation from the University of Florida at Gainesville, Wray knew he wanted to head back to this part of the country. He ended up going to a residency and internship program at Roanoke Memorial Hospital through the University of Virginia. After Wray’s residency was completed, he went into practice in Shelby. “I wasn’t as happy as I wanted to be,” mentions Wray. “I looked everywhere from Atlanta to Roanoke, and one of my good friends was in practice in Winston-Salem. He encouraged me to look here.” Wray put his name in the local medical society. When another doctor passed away in 1981, it left an opening. Wray made a successful bid for the practice and put his own practice up for sale. He came up from Shelby once a week to keep the practice going. The Wray family finally moved in 1982.
The people in Wray’s practice came to mean a lot to him. Wray observes, “My patients are my friends, but they are also like my children. You worry about your children. To me, it’s a sign of a good doctor if you worry. You don’t want to make a mistake.” Wray also feels a close bond with the nurses, employees like Butch and Becky Matlock at Clemmons Family Practice. Becky Matlock shares the same sentiment about Dr. Wray, “He’s a great doctor who truly loves God, family, patients and staff. He prayed for all of them in their times of need. He’s a good man. He will be dearly missed by all.” Friends, Bruce and Pauline Shepherd affirm, “ Walter’s life and work reflect his faith through his care of patients. He was a thorough doctor. He was constantly researching and learning.” Upon reflection, Wray feels a huge sense of faith for being led back to Clemmons.
Wray is a very active member of Calvary Baptist Church. “I have enjoyed teaching four and five year olds in Sunday school for the past 36 years. I have found that the greatest satisfaction in one’s life — be it their Christian walk or the day-to-day practice that comes when you give of yourself.” Wray also participated in the mission’s ministry, going places like Kenya, Honduras, Costa Rica and Haiti for short-term trips.
Many patients, peers and friends have a hard time imagining not having Dr. Wray in his medical office. However, even though he may be leaving his practice, it doesn’t mean he will be leaving medicine altogether. “I plan to volunteer at free clinics in town,” notes Wray. He sees himself staying very active and involved in helping others while also taking some time for family. He also plans to travel to the national parks, especially Yellowstone, which he says, is a national treasure.
Dr. Wray plans to also be there for his children, Christina, Molly, and Hal. Christina, the oldest of Wray’s three children, has been battling a very rare form of cancer. Wray wants to be able to help her when she needs him. “You hate seeing your child suffer,” laments Wray. While he can offer his medical expertise, he can also provide emotional support as well. As any caregiver might note, it helps to have a positive lifestyle. It seems clear in the years to come, Wray intends to do just that.
As Dr. Wray finishes this chapter of his life, many new and exciting ones are just beginning. His friends, peers, family, patients and staff will celebrate the proud grandfather of seven grandchildren ranging in age from three to 16 on Tuesday, July 16, from 5:30-7 p.m. at the new Clemmons Hospital. The open house is an opportunity for everyone to wish him well on his next adventure, and of course, thank him for all he has done for our community.