• 73°

N’hampton plans salute to Merrell Gay

JACKSON — A man who worked to improved the quality of life for his fellow Northampton County citizens will soon be honored in a tribute banquet here.

The Northampton County Cultural and Wellness Center in conjunction with the Northampton Recreation and Cultural Arts Center, Inc. will host a tribute banquet for the late Merrell Gay on Thursday, April 29. The banquet will be a fundraiser as well for the center.

The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. outside with a dedication of a ball field in Gay’s honor with Raye Gay, Mr. Gay’s widow, throwing the ceremonial first pitch for the newly named field.

“It has been the belief of that if you can keep young people involved in sports and activities that they would have less opportunity to become involved in risky lifestyle behaviors; Merrell believed this also,” said Sue Gay, the sister of Merrell. “This is why he supported the Cultural and Wellness Center; he envisioned how it could benefit not only the youth, but the seniors.”

Gay, a baseball fan and a supporter of athletics, was involved with the vision of the Cultural and Wellness Center long before its conception.

Floyd Grant, Chair of the Northampton Recreation and Cultural Arts Center, Inc., a non-profit that raises money for the center and Northampton County Recreational Department, recalled Gay’s work.

“Merrell Gay was involved with the onset of this project at the time it was a steering committee,” he said.

Gay served as chair for that committee and later served as vice president when it became a non-profit.

The tribute will reflect Gay’s favorite sport (baseball) as it feature a buffet dinner, various area speakers and a live auction. The auction items include a signed baseball from the first Negro Baseball League, a signed baseball from the Atlanta Braves, and four tickets to see the Atlanta Braves vs. the San Francisco Giants including Bat Boy privileges for the Giants for a youngster ages 12-18.

“Baseball was his passion,” recalled Recreation Director James Roberts. “He couldn’t wait to get those baseball fields (up at the center).”

Elaine Grant, also with the Northampton Recreation and Cultural Arts Center, Inc., said framed photo of Gay will be hung in the lobby of the Cultural and Wellness Center.

Facilities Coordinator Pudden Gorlesky said she didn’t know Gay very long but got the impression that he cared a lot for Northampton.

“He struck me as a person who had pride in his county,” she said.

Sue Gay noted how the tribute will continue that vision her brother was a part of from the very beginning. The recreational complex has plans to be phased out in the future.

“No special project can ever be completed all at once and then there is sustainability of everything that is worthwhile,” she said. “Through citizen participation we can pay tribute to Merrell as a giving individual and to a project that is benefiting the young, old and in-between.”

Tickets for the tribute are $25 per person; $200 per table of 6; or $300 per table of 8. Table purchases included a mention in the program. The deadline to purchase tickets is April 21, 2010.

Those who would like more information or to purchase tickets can contact Gorlesky at 534-1303 or Sue Gay at 578-9373.