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Constance " Connie " Gray
Constance " Connie " Gray
- July 3, 2017

Constance "Connie" Gray was born March 31, 1919, to John and Jessie (Dryer) Bestgen on the family farm north of Sturgis, SD.  She passed into the next life on July 2, 2017, at the Sturgis Regional Senior Care Center.

     The Valedictorian graduate, from St. Martin's Academy in Sturgis and went on to obtain her nursing degree from St. John's School of Nursing in Rapid City in 1943.

     While working as a nurse at St. John's Hospital, Connie met her future husband, Robert Gray, from Viewfield, SD.  The couple married on October 17, 1945.  To this union, six children were born: David, Charlie, Mary, Mark, Richard, and Anne.

     Connie was known to many as "Dr. Massa's Nurse," having worked for the well-known area physician for more than 30-years.  She was passionate about her profession and witnessed the evolution of nursing from the World War II era, to modern times as a nurse through the 1980's.  During that time, she helped deliver the first baby in the Sturgis Community hospital more than 50 years ago, and cared for hundreds of Meade County folks and interestingly enough for the Korczak Ziolkowski family as their nurse for more than 30 years.  She and Dr. Massa were truly pioneer caregivers, providing medical care in rural areas for nothing more than a loaf of bread or a chicken.

     Connie was instrumental in starting the Future Nurse's Club at the Sturgis High School and participated in the establishment of the Nurse Scholarship fund at the hospital.

     After her retirement in the early 80’s, she continued “service above self”, as she provided foot care for hundreds through the years at the Sturgis Senior Center; She was a member of St. Francis Circle and on various committees at her home parish of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church; volunteered at the Ft. Meade Museum and the Jolley Funeral Home.

     Connie and Robert loved to travel and enjoyed trips throughout the United States and beyond.  One of their favorites was to the Holy Land in the early 70's.  They both loved living at their ranch west of Sturgis, where they enjoyed the flowers, birds, and wildlife every day.  Connie was an award winning and published cowboy poet and author of a book on Dr. L. L. Massa.  She loved to play Scrabble, proving her extensive vocabulary was second only to her quick wit and delightful sense of humor.

     She is survived by son, Charlie Gray (Cindy), Sturgis; daughters, Mary Neugebauer (Joel), Rapid City, and Annie Valades (Vance), Colorado Springs, CO; daughter-in-laws, Julie Gray, Hill City, and Chris Gray (Rich), Coeur d’Alene, ID; brother, Philip Bestgen, Whitewood, SD; 14 grandchildren; 20 great-grandchildren; many beloved nieces and nephews; and many special friends including Dr. George and Ellen Jenter, Sturgis. 

     Connie was preceded in death by her husband, Robert; sons, David, Mark, and Richard; parents, John and Jessie Bestgen; brothers, Leo and Steve Bestgen; sisters, Justine Bruch, Vonnie Bogner, Patricia McDermott, and Betty Bestgen.

     Visitation will be held at 6:00 p.m. followed by a Rosary at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 5, 2017, at St. Martin's Chapel in Sturgis.  Mass of Christian burial will take place at 10:00 a.m. on July 6, at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.

     Memorials in Connie's name may be sent to the Kinkade Funeral Chapel and can be designated toward the restoration of the St. Martin's Chapel, the St. Aloysius Cemetery, or for the Nurse's Scholarship Fund at the Sturgis Community Health Center.

     Condolences may be sent to the family at www.kinkadefunerals.com.

Phone number: 605-347-4455
E-mail: info@kbhbradio.com
Address: 1612 Junction Avenue, Suite #1
Sturgis, SD 57785