Members of the Rochester community say local veterans owe a debt a gratitude to Tom Cray, founder of the Veterans Outreach Center.
Cray died of brain cancer last Friday at the age of 67.
He served two tours in Vietnam and then returned home and worked to get veterans access to the services they needed. Former VOC board member Fred Elliott said Vietnam veterans didn't always get a warm homecoming, but Cray said you had to separate the warrior from the war.
"He persevered. Tom was a very strong and willful person. If he thought he was doing the right thing or fighting for the right cause, there was not stopping him, man."
Elliott said the Veterans Outreach Center would not exist today, at least not in its current form, if it wasn't for Tom Cray. He is also credited with helping establish the Rochester chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America.
Todd Baxter, who led the VOC from 2014 to earlier this year, remembered Cray as a man who had an “intense dedication” to helping veterans, some of whom wanted a place to turn other than the government for assistance and services. “I was almost intimidated by him the first time I had to go and meet him,” Baxter said.
Congresswoman Louise Slaughter issued a statement calling Cray a man who exemplified what it means to serve a cause greater than oneself.
“In so doing, he made an indelible impression on all those who knew him and on generations of veterans who have passed through the doors of the Veterans Outreach Center. Tom and his family are in my thoughts at this difficult time," said Slaughter.
His calling hours will be held Wednesday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Falvo Funeral Home in Webster. A celebration of Cray's life is scheduled on Saturday, November 18 at Monroe Community College.