Roberta "Bobbi" J.F. Wray, a multi-talented individual whose life encompassed roles as a wing-walker, actor, musician, pilot, lawyer, magistrate, and pioneering broadcaster, passed away on August 23, 2023, at the age of 83. She was a trailblazer in her various fields, leaving an indelible mark on the community she loved. Wray's life was an extraordinary journey marked by courage, innovation, and a deep commitment to her passions.
Born Roberta Jean Funsch in the town of Eldorado, Michigan, which has long vanished from the map, Bobbi’s early life was characterized by a love for music, including piano and trombone, and a spirited engagement with farm life. Her father's work at an auto plant led the family between Eldorado and Flint several times, shaping her connection to both places.
Graduating with distinction from Flint Central High School in 1958, Bobbi initially aspired to be an actress, but her interest shifted toward journalism and photography. She entered the broadcasting industry at a time when women were scarce in the field, becoming Michigan's first female broadcast photojournalist. Throughout the '60s and '70s, she captured news events, interviewed public figures, and fearlessly covered challenging topics. She also became a fixture at WNEM-TV (Channel 5), covering everything and anything.
Bobbi’s determination led her to pursue a law degree after witnessing changes in the news industry that concerned her. She graduated from Cooley Law School in 1994 and transitioned into the legal profession, initially working on divorce cases and criminal defense. Later, she became a district court magistrate, bringing her unique background to the bench and applying her life experiences to the legal realm.
Her accomplishments included covering political campaigns, interviewing renowned personalities, wing-walking with stunt pilots, and flying with the Blue Angels. Bobbi also attained her private pilot license. Her endeavors extended to writing, community activism, and neighborhood revitalization efforts.
Bobbi’s legacy as a pioneer in broadcasting, law, and community engagement continues to resonate. She was inducted into the Genesee Regional Women's Hall of Fame, a testament to her enduring impact on the region. Through her varied roles and accomplishments, Roberta "Bobbi" Wray's life story inspires those who dare to pursue their dreams and create change in their communities. Her ability to reinvent herself and excel in different fields is a testament to her resilience, creativity, and unwavering commitment to making a difference.
She is preceded in death by her parents, Dorothy and Robert Funsch, and life partner, Mary Ellen Raleigh. She is survived by brother Russell Funsch, nieces and nephews, daughters Christine LaBeau and Carolyn Martin, four grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
For those who wish to honor Bobbi’s memory, the family kindly requests that donations be made in her name to Genesee County Bar Foundation Law Day, UofM-Flint University Advancement Office, Zonta Club of Flint 1 Scholarship Fund, C/o Greater Flint Community Foundation, 500 S. Saginaw Suite 200, Flint.
Services will be held 1 PM Saturday September 9 at Sharp Funeral Home and Cremation Center, 6063 Fenton Rd., Grand Blanc. Visitation will be held from 11 AM until the time of the service.
Tributes may be shared at www.sharpfuneralhomes.com.