Carson High student who died Saturday remembered for living his faith

Dalton Gay was a student-athlete at Jesse C. Carson High School in Rowan County.
Dalton Gay is remembered by his peers following his tragic death over the weekend.
Published: Jul. 31, 2023 at 3:55 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 31, 2023 at 5:48 PM EDT
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ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Dalton Gay was known as a football player for the Carson High Cougars, for his Army JROTC involvement and for a warm personality, but those who knew the 17-year-old best say that his faith was the defining characteristic of his life.

“Hebrews 11:38, which says ‘the world was not worthy of him.’ I think that’s a really apt way to put it. Like Dalton’s life, he ministered to people, he lived a life that was contagious, he had a very big personality, but none of that was about him. He wanted to live for the Lord,” Grant Ketron, high school pastor at Charity Baptist Church in Kannapolis, said.

Gay died Saturday morning from what is described as an undiagnosed medical condition. An autopsy will be performed to determine the cause of death.

Related: Community mourning the passing of Rowan Co. student

Earlier this year, Gay recorded a video in which he outlined his faith journey, saying “Before I knew Christ I was always living a life of how can I be popular, how can I fit in. I would hang out with these crowds of people that I thought made me cool but in actuality, it just made me lame because every time I felt empty and felt like I was still wanting more out of life, and that’s when a friend invited me to DNow (Disciple Now) three years ago and that’s where I met Christ. To see and feel the body of Christ and how amazing that is and how he can change your life.”

Along with being active in the church, Gay was working on a project to build a new food pantry at Charity Baptist.

“He helped build that food pantry; his hands helped to put up the walls,” his mother, Michelle Hurst Payne, said. “His work is not finished. There’s a reason for this godforsaken tragedy, and I think it’s to bring this community closer to God.”

Gay was set to begin his senior year at Jesse C. Carson High School next week and was looking forward to being back on the football field. He proudly wore No. 43, his mother said, because his older brother wore that same number when he played for the Cougars.

Ketron said he’s been ministering to many in the community who are upset about Gay’s death.

“We don’t know why,” Ketron said. “We don’t know why this has happened. We don’t know why this tragedy has taken place. We trust the Lord that He is sovereign and in his providence, there is a purpose in some way, shape or form, as to why this is happening,” Ketron said. “We don’t have an answer ultimately. We trust God that in Dalton’s life, as much as it spoke to the Lord, and as much as he shared the Lord, I believe that in his death, there may be an even greater impact.”

“I realized that through Christ I can do these things and that he gives me the power to overcome these trials in my life, and I was able to rise above and keep the Lord on the mantle of my life, keep pursuing him every day and it made me better because of it,” Dalton said in the video. “Through the Lord, my life has been transformed to be something better, to live for something more than just myself, that the Lord has given me the ability to have eternal life with him.”

“I think the takeaway is exactly what Dalton wanted to be the takeaway, not only in his life but in his death; life is short and time is urgent,” Ketron added, “and Dalton believed and he wanted people in that time to know that Jesus Christ died on the cross for their sins, to be a ransom for their sins, to take away the penalty of their sin, and he rose from the dead three days later so that we can have new life in him by faith. It’s not by good works or going to church enough or reading the right Bible translation, but trusting in Christ as our Lord and Savior, and I think that’s what Dalton would want everybody to know.”

The family is asking those who want to honor Dalton Gay’s memory to make donations for the completion of the food pantry at Charity Baptist Church, 2420 Brantley Rd., Kannapolis, NC, 28082. People can reach the church office at 704-938-7664.

Donations can also be made online.