Cincinnati Children’s develops park named for longtime educator, community leader

The late William Joel McCray was teacher at South Avondale School

Monday, April 22, 2024

Cincinnati Children’s has developed a park in Avondale, which is named in honor of the late community leader and educator William Joel McCray.

The 1.5-acre park is across from the Cincinnati Children’s Critical Care Building on Erkenbrecher Avenue, west of the intersection with Burnet Avenue.

McCray, who died in 2020 at age 97, was a resident of Erkenbrecher Avenue for more than 50 years. He lived a few houses from the park’s location.

A longtime teacher at South Avondale School, McCray was a mentor to many. He once noted: “I do things that make me feel good about Cincinnati. It’s all about the children to whom I dedicated my life.”

Monica Mitchell, a pediatric psychologist who is assistant vice president for Community Relations at Cincinnati Children’s, said the William Joel McCray Community Park will promote health, wellness and community engagement. “These goals are consistent with our mission and Mr. McCray’s inspiring life and legacy,” Mitchell said.

Cincinnati Children’s developed the park with input from community members. The park’s features support physical and mental wellness, including a play area, exercise equipment, meditation space, a garden, an amphitheater, a Little Free Library book-sharing box and a pad for food trucks.

“The park is wonderful and is an example of who he was as a person,” said Linda McCray Bray, a cousin of William Joel McCray. “He cared for every single detail of his yard and had the most beautiful flowers and plants. He always opened his home and his heart to others. It will be great to see children come to the park and play and learn.”

Her husband, Earl Bray Jr., a former student of Mr. McCray, said: “He always encouraged others to be better and to excel. That is who he was. He was an extraordinary person.”

After graduating from Harriet B. Stowe School in 1940, McCray enlisted in the Army Air Corps and served during World War II. He graduated from what is now the University of Cincinnati’s College of Education in 1954.

In addition to being a teacher, McCray was a supporter of the arts – including being one of the co-founders in 1986 of the Robert S. Duncanson Society at the Taft Museum of Art. Named for the Black artist who in the 1850s painted landscape murals in the entry hall of what is now the Taft Museum in downtown Cincinnati, the society honors the achievements of contemporary Black artists. McCray also was a founding member of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s Multicultural Awareness Council.

Area residents are invited to a dedication ceremony that will celebrate the opening of the William Joel McCray Community Park from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday, June 1. The celebration will include children’s activities, giveaways, games, a DJ playing music and food trucks.

ZGF Architects designed the park, and Messer Construction oversaw the build on behalf of Cincinnati Children’s.

Contact Information

Barret J. Brunsman