Dietitian recognized for organizing MLK birthday celebration at hospital 50 years ago

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Voices rose in celebration Friday at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset ahead of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday celebration.

The festivity has taken place for five decades at the hospital, thanks to an 82-year-old woman who was there from the beginning on Jan. 15, 1970.

It started the day before, when Mattie Gray, who worked in dietary, along with head chef Robert McGhee, were told by the kitchen staff if the hospital did not have a ceremony to honor Dr. King, they would leave and attend a ceremony somewhere else.

Gray and McGhee had 24 hours to put a program together, and at 2 a.m. they finished splicing music and Dr. King speeches together for the program’s musical meditation.

“Some came in with tears, some hugged each other,” Gray recalled.

On the original program from that day back in 1970, Gray wrote, “This is history.”

Robert McGhee has passed, but for decades, the two hospital employees made sure each year that Dr. King was honored for his life's work and his message of goodwill, kindness and compassion, a message that Gray feels 50 years later has made a difference.

"They’re doing things now like outreach, helping people that need help and that's what Rev. King was for: to feed the hungry, help the poor and to educate the children, you know? He was for that, so I feel like we're making some progress," Gray says.

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