Grace Curtis Joehlin
April 25, 1908 - January 20, 2002

Eulogy by Larry Curtis

I have known Grace the longest of anyone now living. There are many aspects of her life that I am now the only person who knows about, and I'd like to fill in a few of the details.

Grace was born in 1908, the youngest of five children of Josiah and Clara Cornwell, who lived in Elsie Michigan, a small town near Lansing. Josiah was then in his 50's and Clara in her 40's so Grace became the favorite of her sister Hope, who was 14 years her senior. Josiah had worked as a butcher and then purchased a hardware store. When the hardware was destroyed by a fire he bought a farm, and that is where Grace grew up. Grace and my father Lorenzo both went to school in Elsie. Lorenzo was the son of the town pharmacist and he was three grades ahead of Grace. When his father died suddenly, Lorenzo and his two younger brothers moved to California where his mother had relatives. When it became difficult for his mother to care for three children, Lorenzo, as the oldest, returned to Elsie to live with his grandparents. By that time Grace had been recognized as a precocious student, and had skipped several grades in school. Thus, Grace and Lorenzo became classmates, and ultimately my parents.

After graduating from Elsie High School at age 14, Grace cared for her ill mother, while Lorenzo studied Pharmacy at Ferris Institute. Her mother passed away when Grace was only 16, and her father's health was declining. Her sister Hope was then a teacher at Toledo Libbey High School, and encouraged Grace to become a teacher also. Grace enrolled at Bowling Green State Teachers College (now BGSU), and she and her father lived in Toledo with her sister Hope. Grace commuted to Bowling Green daily on the interurban railway that then connected so much of this area. Grace graduated from Bowling Green with a Teacher's Certificate in 1928, the same year that her father passed away. Because she loved to work with small children, she became a kindergarten teacher.

Grace then returned to Elsie and, 20 married Lorenzo, who had become a registered pharmacist like his father. They obtained jobs in nearby Ovid Michigan, and survived the great Depression with Grace working as a kindergarten teacher and Lorenzo as the town pharmacist. In 1935 economic recovery was underway, and I was born. However, Grace still had much sorrow ahead. In 1936 her sister Francis was killed in an auto accident, and in 1937 her sister Madge died of complications following a simple tonsillectomy. Although Madge died before I was two years old, I still have vivid memories of her visits to our house in Ovid. Grace wanted to instill in me Madge's love of literature. (Madge had read Ivanhoe before other children her age had learned to read. Josiah was moved to give Grace the middle name Rowena - after the Lady Rowena whose love Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe was ultimately able to win.)

In 1940 Hope's husband died suddenly. Hope asked Lorenzo and Grace to take over her husband's very successful Appliance Business. Thus we moved Toledo with great expectations, but the onset of World War II changed those plans also. Lorenzo was assigned to work in a War Plant making valves for P-38 airplane engines. He became store manager with the Lane Drug Company in Toledo after the war. Grace's brother Harry died in 1953, and her sister Hope died in 1971.

Both Lorenzo and Grace were very musical, with Grace playing the violin and piano. As a small child I was encouraged (but not coerced) to take violin lessons. Grace always made friends easily, and quickly became a close friend of my violin teacher Mildred Harding. Mildred was a concert violinist, had been a child prodigy, and was searching for ways to make musical study attractive to the very young. She quickly recognized Grace's gift for working with small children, and together they expanded the Harding Music School. Grace inspired the children to want to play, gave them the basic skills, then passed them on to Mildred to achieve mastery. Unfortunately this very fruitful collaboration ended with Mildred's death 1948. However, there are still gifted musicians active today who began their study with Grace.

With my graduation from High School and entry into College in 1953, Grace returned to teaching. She quickly obtained a position teaching in a private school, and then as a Permanent Substitute at Walbridge School. To upgrade her teaching certification she enrolled in the College of Education at the University of Toledo, and received her Bachelor of Education in Elementary Education in 1956. She continued teaching until her retirement in 1973. One of her kindergarten students, Rick Babcock, is an LPN at her nursing home. He provided her with tender care for over four years, and was with her when she passed away.

With my graduation from high school in 1953, I entered the secure academic environ-ment as an undergraduate, graduate student, and Professor, so Grace and Lorenzo had opportunities for many activities and much travel. They played golf, traveled to conventions, and did a lot of dancing. Grace had many hobbies - crafts and woodworking, square dance calling, and of course, with the outreach programs of St. Paul's Church to benefit small children. This continued until December 1966, when Lorenzo died suddenly of a heart attack.

Although lonely, Grace threw herself into her work and her hobbies, particularly dancing. She constructed an extensive life-size zoo of paper maché animals for her kindergarten students, and designed and sewed elaborate costumes for her dance group. In 1973 Grace traveled to Hawaii for a Dance Competition, and was literally swept off her feet by a member of an opposing team, Homer Joehlin. They were married in the old St. Paul's Church in 1974. Grace thus acquired additional sons and daughters, Stan & Dolores Joehlin and Nancy and John Bonner, as well as grandchildren, greatgrandchildren, in a large and supportive family. Grace and Homer moved to a Condominium in Stonehenge where Grace lived for 17 years. They shared many wonderful experiences (with extensive travel) until Homer's death in 1979. Grace and Homer particularly enjoyed the summer they spent living in Sweden, when they came over to meet the parents of my wife Maj. They divided their time between an apartment in Stockholm and the farm owned by Maj's parents in Småland. Both loved the Swedish countryside.

Despite alternating periods of joy and disappointment, Grace continued to find ways to enjoy life. In the 22 years after Homer's passing she was an avid reader, completing several novels each week, and her handiwork in sewing and needlepoint still adorns our house. As Grace began to need more help, she moved to the Elizabeth Scott Community, first for three years in assisted living, and then for four years in full nursing care. There she was able to continue to enjoy life (and music) in a secure and nurturing environment.

During the past few years a number of nice things have happened in my life, and it has been source of joy to me that Grace lived to share some of my better moments, and I had the privilege of seeing the pride that she felt with each of my successes.

I must also mention the close bond that formed between Grace and my wife Maj. While I was growing up I thought that Grace and I were exact opposites. It was Maj who convinced me that we were exactly alike, and that the thing that made us appear different was a certain shared stubbornness. Over the years Maj became as much a daughter to Grace as I am a son, and much or the happiness that Grace had after Homer's death is a result of the love and affection that existed between Grace and her daughter Maj.

In closing, let me say that we should not be here to mourn Grace's passing, but instead to celebrate her full life.

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