Charles Grace dies at age 94

Charles H. Grace, 1926 – 2020

Charles Henry Grace, 94, died peacefully in his sleep of natural causes on July 14, 2020, at his home in Lakewood, Ohio. Charles was a prominent figure in the Cuyahoga Astronomical Association (CAA) and an honorary Life Member.

Born Feb. 20, 1926, in Dayton, Ohio, he was the second of three sons to John Wesley Grace and Esther Wilkening Grace. He and his late brothers, Nelson and Donald, all enjoyed long, productive lives, with each living into his nineties.

Charles was a bit of a Renaissance man: a scholar, engineer, lawyer, inventor, musician, author, amateur astronomer, and lover of classical music, language and poetry. In fact, he embodied his favorite poem, “Invictus” by 19th century English poet William Ernest Henley, which concludes with: “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” Invictus, which means “unconquerable” or “undefeated” in Latin, is about courage in the face of death, and holding on to one’s own dignity despite the indignities life places before us.

Charles, who still could recite the entire poem in his final months, did just that, keeping his wit and eternal optimism even while confronted with failing eyesight, hearing, and overall health.

He earned a doctoral degree in electrical engineering from Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. He seldom used the “Dr.” title he had earned, however, since he considered it pretentious. He founded his own company, Grace Electronics, in Cleveland, where he developed a photometer that measured the intensity of light and was used in the U.S. space program.

A disciplined goal-setter, he placed a triangular wooden carving on his desk that stated: “Plan the Work & Work the Plan.”

Always a student, he employed an extensive collection of handwritten flashcards to study for the bar exam at home at night while running his company. He passed the bar and added a juris doctorate degree from Cleveland State University to his electronics career.

Leveraging his engineering, electronics and legal knowledge, he then transitioned into law full time and rose to serve as general patent counsel for the multinational industrial conglomerate Eaton Corp. for many years. He ran their European law offices in the late 1970s, stationed in London, England, before returning to the U.S. in 1981 to oversee Eaton’s mid-U.S. law offices.

Charles has patented inventions, including a self-tuning electronic saxophone, and in August 2010, at the age of 84, self-published a book entitled Astronomy: Selected Topics. As a lover of astronomy, he wrote a monthly article called “Looking Up” in the CAA’s newsletter, “The Observer”, where he explained astronomical subjects in everyday language. He was the author of the CAA’s club By-Laws.

In addition to the astronomy club, he was a member of many intellectual groups, including Mensa, Rotary, Socrates, and an exclusive men’s book club, as well as many church clubs. He was a long-time, active member of the West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church in Rocky River, Ohio, and considered many fellow parishioners there to be his second family.

Charles for more than a quarter century was married to his beloved Marian E. (Banfer) Grace, who passed away in 1991 at age 67. They are survived by their three children: Kathy (Charlie Vaughn); Linda (Joseph Arney); and Bob (Gabriela Ferreira), who all now live in Florida.

Later in life, Charles was partners first with Patty Peters, who passed away in 2010 at age 86, and then with Margery Ventresca, who preceded him in death by eight months.

Charles always enjoyed the companionship of witty people and kept a social calendar that would exhaust someone half his age. He hosted many parties for friends at his condo in Winton Place, on Lakewood’s Gold Coast, overlooking Lake Erie and the Cleveland skyline. These gatherings typically included guest participation activities, musical entertainment, poem readings, dinner invocations, and the like.

In the final year of his life, despite his various daily hardships, he was always the gentleman, and he was particularly grateful for the kind, attentive assistance (and delicious, home-cooked meals) provided by the caregivers at Daughters With Degrees. May we all share his thirst for knowledge and self-improvement.

In lieu of flowers, feel free to make a donation in the name of Charles H. Grace to the Case Western Reserve University Alumni Case Fund, the SmileTrain, or to the charity of your choice.