Remembering the Keeper of the Asheville Wall

“He made every person he greeted feel special.”

Happy at the Asheville Wall in 2014 | Photo by Paul Clark/Citizen-Times

The Before I Die wall in Asheville, North Carolina had an unofficial guardian. Earl Lee Gray, better known as Happy, was a disabled veteran who sat in a chair on Biltmore Avenue every day taking care of the local Before I Die wall. “I come out here every day and make sure kids don’t write nasty stuff up there. And believe me, they do,” he told the Citizen-Times. For the next two years he continued to be the keeper of the wall and made many friends along the way. Today, the wall has become a home for his memorial with flowers, photographs, and notes from people he touched.

“Asheville has lost a true hero. Downtown will never be the same,” says a note on the donation page for his funeral service. “Happy was the first person who made us feel welcome when we moved to Asheville. He made every person he greeted feel special,” says another. And: “Always passed Happy on my way to and from work. He would always try to say something if I was having a rough day to make me smile. Even if I didn’t give him a dime.” And: “Earl was a beautiful and positive man despite his challenges. We will miss his high five and good vibe.” And: “We will miss your presence and reminder of what’s important in life.” Much love to Happy and his family. Read more at the Citizen-Times.