Occupation: Employee Benefits broker at Cate-Russell Insurance
Family: Engaged to Jeff Curtis and one daughter, Misty Abele, and son-in-law, Brandon Abele.
Debby Gray is the 2011 Blount County Relay for Life chair.
The Walland native says her motivation for leading Relay for Life next year crystallized earlier this year when she went to a Relay for Life kickoff event in neighboring Loudon County.
Gray met a gentleman who shared the struggles his family endured because of cancer and cancer treatments.
“When I was talking with him, it struck me that I didn’t have that type of experience or background,” she says. “I’ve been very blessed that no one in my close family has had to battle cancer.”
Gray says she realizes this is a blessing. “But it also made me ask, ‘Why not me?’ Our current statistics show that 1 in 3 in their lifetime will be diagnosed with cancer,” she says. “I know I live on borrowed time. In all likelihood, according to statistics, there will be a time I hear those words.”
Gray attended Walland High School and graduated Heritage High School in 1980. It was during her senior year that she took a part-time job with Blackwood Insurance Agency as a file clerk. “I worked for Blackwood, went to work at Cate-Russell Insurance, then went to Cariten Health Care and then came back to Cate-Russell to be a broker in employee benefits,” she says. “I have 30 years in the business and have been a broker nine years.”
Gray says the insurance industry is very challenging, especially with the ongoing health care reform ongoing. “I love to always be learning, and this industry gives you that opportunity in a big way. Plus, I love working with people. It is very satisfying even though health insurance can be very challenging.”
Gray says she wants to be part of changing the odds. “It has become my ambition to bend the curve. I want to be part of an organization that shifts it from 1-in-3 to 1-in-5 and maybe 1-in-10 one day. I want fewer people to hear the words, ‘You have cancer.’”
Here is Debby Gray:
Who are you most like, your mother or your father and why?
“Growing up, I was very stubborn and strong-willed like my father. All it took for me to get something done was for someone to tell me that I couldn’t do it. But, after the birth of my daughter, I developed more of my mother’s compassionate and sensitive personality.”
What is your favorite quote from television or a movie?
‘”No one puts Baby in a corner’ which is Patrick Swayze in ‘Dirty Dancing. ‘ I love that movie and him as an actor.”
What are you guilty of?
“Taking charge when I should say ‘No.’ My brain knows that there are only 24 hours in a day. But, my nature always thinks I should be doing more.”
What is your favorite material possession?
“That’s a tough question. I love my family photos because they contain the memories of my past and include people who are still present in my life as well as ones who are not.”
What are you reading currently?
“I am about half way through ‘Have A Little Faith’ by Mitch Albom.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
“My boss and I had an appointment with a client a couple of years ago. While we were waiting, my boss took a piece of candy out of their candy bowl and put it in his mouth. A few seconds later, he began to cough and made all sorts of strange sounds. He spit the candy out just as the receptionist returned with our client. He informed the receptionist that their candy wasn’t very good. She got this very confused look on her face and then informed him that her dish did not contain candy. It was air freshener. Talk about embarrassed. We both wanted to hide under the table.”
What are the top three things on your bucket list?
“I recently made a decision that I am not going to let fear keep me from participating in life. In the past two years, I’ve gone on vacation by myself, ridden in a race car at 132 mph around a dirt track, gone parasailing, completed a sprint triathlon and ran across the Gay Street bridge (I’m terrified of heights). Next on my list will be to travel overseas and continue my piano lessons.”
What is one word others often use to describe you and why?
“Feisty. I have a group of friends who call ourselves ‘The Chicklettes,’ and they often refer to me as their ‘Chihuahua,’ because I am easily excited and can be very high energy.”
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“My shoe size - do you have any idea of how hard it is to find 4-inch heels in a size five and a half?”
With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
“Jesus Christ. I have so many questions for him.”
What is the best present you ever received in a box?
“When I was a little girl, I got a Chatty Cathy doll. Back then, it was a very big deal to get a store-bought doll, and my mom thought a Chatty Cathy was perfect for me. ”
What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
“If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all.”
Other than your parents, who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?
“My daughter. She is my inspiration, and she always makes me want to be a better person.”
Do you Myspace, Facebook or Twitter?
“I am on Facebook but I must confess that my daughter constantly has to get me out of trouble there. I can never figure out if I am posting something on my wall or on someone else’s.”
What’s the worst job you have ever had?
“The worst job I’ve ever had would have to be when I lived at home and my parents would make me go to the chicken coop to gather the eggs. I didn’t like eggs and chicken coops are smelly and often had snakes.”
What is your theme song that best describes you?
‘”Amazing Grace.’ I live my life everyday by grace and hope to extend that same grace to others.”
What irritates you?
“People agreeing to do something and not following through.”
What’s one place in Blount County everyone should visit?
“The Survivor and Luminaries ceremonies at Relay For Life.”
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself at 18?
“Laugh at yourself before anyone else does. No one is perfect all the time.”