WATERVILLE — A Portland resident involved in a single-vehicle crash Thursday on Mayflower Hill Drive on the Colby College campus has died, according to police.
Donovan M. Gray, 68, of Portland was a well-known supporter of the arts, particularly in the Northwest, and was a volunteer conductor and engineer for the Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. and Museum in Portland.
Donnell Carroll, executive director of Narrow Gauge, said Friday that Gray was a dedicated volunteer for about 10 years but had to cut back on his work the last couple of years because of health problems. He loved to teach people about trains and was well-liked and respected, according to Carroll.
“He would routinely volunteer for at least a day or two, if not more, a week, to make sure the train was covered,” Carroll said. “He took some leadership roles in train operations and oversight and did a lot of training and education for new people on the board.”
Carroll said he knew Gray had not been well, but he was shocked to learn Friday that he died after a car accident.
“To get the email this morning very early that he had been in a fatal crash was kind of an ‘Oh, my God,’” he said.
Gray was taken Thursday to the Thayer Center for Health on North Street in Waterville after the 1:48 p.m. crash and then transferred to MaineGeneral Medical Center in Augusta, where he was scheduled to be operated on, Sgt. Alden Weigelt said at the time.
Police Chief Joseph Massey said Friday morning that Gray died at the hospital during the night. Massey said he did not know an official cause of death.
The crash occurred when the Hyundai Sonata Gray was driving was heading northeast on Mayflower Hill Drive and careened off the road, knocked out several black metal fence posts connected by chains near the college athletic field, struck some young trees, crossed a paved walkway and crashed head-on into a large pine tree. Gray was alone in the car.
Weigelt said Thursday after the crash that a medical problem might have been a factor in the crash.
After Gray’s accident, Waterville police called in Detective Sgt. Scott Mills from the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Department to help Waterville police Officer Matt Libby reconstruct the crash. Police spoke to a witness who had a conversation with Gray at a building on the Colby campus before the crash occurred, according to Weigelt.
Jerry Arnold, longtime friend of Gray, wrote on a GoFundMe page late last year that Gray had been suffering from a “life-threatening episode caused by a ruptured colon.” Gray was retired and living on “what little Social Security & paltry retirement funds his arts career has provided for him,” Arnold wrote.
Gray, according to the page, was a lifelong supporter of and career administrator in the arts and worked on historic preservation of treasured buildings throughout the country. Gray also worked in theater, ballet and modern dance on the national level, it says.
Barbara Schaffer Bacon, co-director of Animating Democracy, a program of the nonprofit advocacy group Americans for the Arts, said in an email exchange Friday that she knew Gray when he was a community development coordinator in the 1970s and 1980s in the state of Washington. She said he traveled the state to help citizens form arts councils and establish art centers to provide opportunities for residents to participate in, study and enjoy the arts in small towns and rural communities across the state.
“Donovan did this work with passion,” she wrote. “He brought an infectious love of dance (especially) and all the arts. Besides the Washington State Arts Council, he was an active leader for the Western States Arts Foundation and a panelist and site visitor for the National Endowment for the Arts. Donovan was a valued colleague as evidenced by the beautiful remembrances and tributes appearing on Facebook – many by people who haven’t seen him in years.”
Gray’s Facebook page says he was stage manager for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City from Nov. 1, 1969, to June 1970.
“Best job Ever,” Gray wrote after the post. Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Gray was involved in the rehabilitation of historic spaces for arts and humanities programs, according to a website of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, which features a question-and-answer with Gray in an article called, “It Takes One: Donovan Michael Gray.” Gray says in that Q&A that he decided to focus his work on historic preservation and worked for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, helping the Puget Sound region recover from the Nisqually Earthquake of February 2001.
“That work led to employment with the Washington Office (now Department) of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP) providing historic guidance to the $120 million rehabilitation of our state capitol building as well as other earthquake repair projects in Western Washington,” the page says.
Amy Calder can be contacted at 861-9247 or at: