Charles H. Gray, 85, of Mt. Airy, a retired high school teacher who was the owner of a popular barbecue restaurant in Germantown, died May 6 after a series of strokes at Einstein Medical Center.
Mr. Gray taught science and mathematics in Philadelphia high schools for nearly three decades, but he was best known as the proprietor of the Rib Crib, at 6333 Germantown Ave., where his sizzling-hot baby back ribs with homemade sauce had made the place a Philadelphia landmark.
In 47 years as proprietor of the restaurant, Mr. Gray had hosted former President Bill Clinton, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, actors Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks, and singer Patti LaBelle.
Born in Wilmington, Del., he earned a master’s degree from Temple University and had completed his course work for a doctorate when his lifelong dream to open a barbecue pit took precedence. With seed money from his wife and bricks from an old factory, the rib restaurant became a reality in 1968.
After suffering a series of strokes in 2012, he passed the business to his daughter Kimberly.
Mr. Gray was a longtime member of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Mt. Airy, which honored him for his philanthropy with a ceremony in December 1996. He and his wife, Bessie, who died in 2012, had paid the college costs of many neighborhood children.
In addition to his daughter, he is survived by a sister. Funeral services were held May 16 at Holy Cross Lutheran Church. – WF