Lance Gray was a man who lived 100 lives.
He was a musician, mathematician, truth seeker, straight talker and a ranch hand, said his wife of 17 years, Marlene Gray.
Lance Gray, 73, of Llano died Sunday in a vehicle crash near Chama.
The crash occurred when a 1993 Jeep heading west on U.S. 64 hit an elk, rolled and struck the side of Lance Gray’s 1972 Chevrolet truck.
The Jeep’s driver, a 21-year-old woman from Jemez Springs, was not injured in the crash, according to a news release, and has not been charged with a crime.
Lance Gray was returning from a horseback riding trip on property they own in Pagosa Springs, Colo., Marlene Gray said.
“He was like the bear that went over the mountain to see what he could see,” she said of her husband. “That was Lance. He wanted to know what he didn’t know.”
Lance Gray was a Navy brat born in San Diego who went to the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he studied to become a math professor.
“[He was] looking out the window on a beautiful spring day and realized if he followed the path he was on, he was going to be spending a lot more beautiful spring days inside instead of outside,” Marlene Gray said.
Lance Gray left school, and while working as a dishwasher at a steakhouse in Tucson, Ariz., a friend offered him a job as a campfire singer at a dude ranch in Wyoming.
He went on to be a working cowboy at ranches across the country.
Lance Gray was an avid musician who played guitar, as well as upright and electric bass.
When he first visited New Mexico in 1974, he immediately started playing in rock ’n’ roll and bluegrass bands, Marlene Gray said.
The couple met in the mid-1990s at a cafe in Bisbee, Ariz., while she was ditching an algebra class in a neighboring town, Marlene Gray said.
Later that day, the two of them met some friends to play music and they discovered they both knew how to play the obscure bluegrass song “The Rank Stranger” by the Stanley Brothers. They officially became a couple in 1998.
The two went on to play music as a duo, simply known as Lance and Marlene, his wife said.
New Mexico State Police incorrectly said in a Monday news release that Lance Gray was 59 and from Peñasco.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by four daughters, five sons, 15 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
The family planned to hold a private ceremony Thursday morning, and Marlene Gray said they will hold a community celebration for her husband once COVID-19 social-distancing guidelines are relaxed.
“We will have a music festival in Llano in honor of Lance, and he will be playing his bass right in the middle of them. I just know it.”
Correction: A previous version of this story erroneously included the wrong name of the man killed in the vehicle crash near Chama on second reference. The error was made in editing.