This profile is part of KCUR’s occasional series, Aging in Place. We’re showcasing the many different faces of 64 in metro Kansas City.
Name: Jon R. Gray
Residence: Kansas City, Missouri
Occupation: Lawyer for Shook, Hardy & Bacon
What does 64 feel like? “Feels great. It beats the alternative. The alternative would be to not be 64 and be dead somewhere. What I can honestly say is I am truly living the best time of my life.”
What’s the biggest surprise or disappointment for you at this stage in your life? “The biggest disappointment is I’m not going to be in the NFL draft next year, but aside from things like that, I’ve not encountered any disappointment that I consider to be abnormal. ... There have been losses, certainly. I lost my parents. I lost my grandmothers. Those things are natural. They’re part of the cycle of life.”
When do you think you’ll retire and what will that look like? “I’ve retired once. I was a circuit judge for a little over 20 years. I retired from that in 2007 and joined the international litigation firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon, where I am now. I think I contribute quite a bit to the firm’s culture and what we’re trying to pass on to the next generation of high quality lawyers, so I have no real thoughts about retiring. When I think about retiring, I think about ... watching TV all day or trying to play golf every day. That’s not something to which I aspire.”
Do you plan to spend the rest of your life in the KC area? “About three years ago, we had a real bad winter. There was one stretch that was particularly cold, snowy and icy, and I began to think about what it would be like to live in a warm climate during the winter months. I’ve never really acted on it, gone looking for some place. ... Unless something changes drastically, I’ll probably continue to live here.”
What’s your biggest worry? “My father lived until he was 95. He experienced some dementia. My mother lived until she was 88, and she didn’t so much experience dementia, but it became obvious after awhile that she had some deteriorating skills. She wanted to keep driving, for example. ... I’ve seen people not be able to do that they way they want to, and it’s a concern. So we try to remain active so we can continue to remain active.”
Do you feel you get the support you need from your family, friends and community? “Yes, although I’m still at the stage of giving support as opposed to receiving support. There are friends of mine, my aunt, my wife’s parents - they’re still very independent, so there’s not a lot I have to do for them. As they age, one of the things I have to be concerned about is doing what I can to be supportive of them and being supportive of my wife. My kids are at a state where they’re doing very well. They’re independent. I tell people I’m real proud of my son because he never asks me for money. That’s a sense of pride for me.”
What’s on your bucket list? “I want to travel still, a lot. We took a trip to France and Italy last year. I’ve been to parts of Asia. I still want to go to Africa. I still want to go to South America. There are a number of things in the way of travel I’d like to do. I scratched off the NFL quite a while ago. I’m probably not going to get to do that.”
What do you think is the defining moment of your generation? “I remember where I was when the March on Washington took place. I remember where I was when King and Kennedy were assassinated. ... My first year of college was when students were murdered at Kent State and at Jackson State University. I intentionally say both because Jackson State often gets forgotten about, (but) I remember Jackson State just as vividly as Kent State. School was closed before the year was over. Not just mine - I was in college then - but a lot of colleges across the country were closed.”
What’s your favorite song? “I had a radio show when I was in college - and for a long time when I’d open and close the radio show with an instrumental called ‘Dear Lord,’ by John Coltrane. I think I have it in that stack of CDs over there. That’s the song I’ve heard the most in my life because I’ve played it the most in my life.”
Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.