Ray Grace, 81, passed away on Thursday after a lifetime of service to the region where he successfully operated motor dealerships and a portfolio of other business interests. Photo: Chris McCormack
Ray Grace, 81, passed away on Thursday after a lifetime of service to the region where he successfully operated motor dealerships and a portfolio of other business interests. Photo: Chris McCormack

Little man with big heart gave all for Sunshine Coast

HE WAS a benefactor with the deepest of pockets, the father of the early Sunshine Coast motor industry, a champion of the show and the showman who provided the magic.

He was also a businessman who drove straight through obstacles with a fierce determination that belied his stature.

Ray Grace, died in Selangor Hospital, Nambour, on Thursday after a long illness.

The 81-year-old was more simply a man with an enormous heart and the gravitas to change people's lives for the better.

Ray Grace outside the Sunshine Valley Men's Shed on Blackall Range Rd which sits on land he donated and paid to have excised from his own home property.
Ray Grace outside the Sunshine Valley Men's Shed on Blackall Range Rd which sits on land he donated and paid to have excised from his own home property.

Possessed of enormous energy, despite his ailing health he was still able to manage two days buzzing around this year's Sunshine Coast Agricultural Show in his mobility scooter saying final farewells to friends made over decades.

Sunshine Coast Council Division Five councillor Jenny McKay said her friend, once labelled by a journalist as the luckiest man alive, had been blessed with many of them.

She was referring not just to February, 1994, when he lay in a Nambour hospital bed, his body kept alive by nutrients fed through four tubes to bypass an upper bowel total blockage made inoperable by two earlier cancer operations.

On that occasion he got lucky with the blockage clearing itself as he lay at death's door.

In 1983 when floodwaters swept down Petrie Creek and through Nambour, Ray had been trapped inside his own car dealership on Coronation Drive at Nambour by a massive wall of water.

 

Ray Grace steps from the boat that rescued him from the rafters inside his motor dealership in Nambour where he had spent a night trapped during the Wet Wednesday, 1983, floods.
Ray Grace steps from the boat that rescued him from the rafters inside his motor dealership in Nambour where he had spent a night trapped during the Wet Wednesday, 1983, floods.

 

 

His staff escaped but Ray had to clamber up into the rafters where he spent the night while his stock of Mercedes were washed away downstream.

The next morning, police drove their rescue boat into the workshop, tore a sheet of corrugated iron off the roof and got him out.

The business lost 14 new cars with total damages of $400,000 of which his insurance company had paid out $250,000 in claims before it went broke.

He was to rebuild only to be smashed again, but not to the same extent, by the 1992 floods that caused enough damage across the region.

Ray was eventually to sell out to Gary Crick but retained a diversified portfolio of property and business interests.

Cr McKay said Mr Grace would be remembered for his willingness to do whatever was needed to help others.

He was a founder of the Woombye Community Bank, set up the special education unit at Wombye State School and gifted land from his own home property for the Sunshine Valley Men's Shed on Blackall Range Rd.

That generosity extended to the point of paying all the associated land-transfer costs.

"He was an old-style Sunshine Coast businessman willing to put back into the community," Cr McKay said.

"Ray wasn't challenged by rules and regulations.

"He was prepared to take a calculated risk and deliver.

"Ray was a little man with a big heart."

He spent 32 years with the Sunshine Coast Show Society, 16 years with Apex at Nambour, at one stage spending a week sitting on top of a pole in his caryard to raise funds to build the town's swimming pool.

He played a key role in getting the Maroochy Aero Club off the ground and helped set up the Woombye Telco which delivered more than $1000-a-month into the community.

"I was lucky enough to have a brain that could think of ideas and make them happen. And I get a lot of pleasure out of making things happen for other people … I think it's what I was meant to do," he once said of his life.

Ray Grace is survived by his loving family.