the north face etip A man for all seasons
THOMASVILLE Dr. Hill Benjamin “Ben” Grace exuded class mixed with a delightful sense of humor, a love of beautiful things and a deep appreciation of his friends.
His beaming smile and booming laughter infiltrated his surroundings. He possessed a keen interest in many things and enjoyed a vast assortment of friends. Grace seemed to relish adding new and different personalities to his life.
Grace surrounded himself with elegance and beauty. His historic homes were impeccably decorated. Meals at his elegant dining table were fit for a king, with Grace, ever the gracious host, holding court at the head of the table. Laughter would fill the room.
His generosity and compassion are legend.
Grace, 95, died Wednesday.
A dentist, he came to Thomasville in 1947, to work with Dr. Searcy. Navy and served as the sole dentist aboard the USS Randall.
A Graceville, Florida, native, and 1947 graduate of the Emory University School of Dentistry, Grace retired in February 2003, after 55 years of practicing dentistry in Thomasville.
When Grace returned to Thomasville in the 1950s, after the Navy stint, he lived in a cottage on St. Paul Road.
“I’d go hunting out there when I was in high school and college,” said Paul McCollum, a Thomasville attorney.
Grace’s main thrust was keeping Thomasville’s history alive, McCollum said.
Nancy McCollum recalled Grace’s award winning camellias, orchids he grew in a greenhouse and restoration/renovation of his historic homes on Fletcher Street and the Burbank Cottage on Remington Avenue.
“He was as a gregarious man as I ever knew,” Nancy McCollum said.
A founding member of Thomasville Landmarks Inc., Grace served as Landmarks president and longtime board member, eventually being awarded emeritus status.
“(Dr.) Grace was an ardent supporter of historic preservation and Thomasville Landmarks,” said Landmarks director Mary Lawrence Lang. “He was one of four founding members who banded together in 1964, to defend the historic fabric and character of this community early in the historic preservation movement. At a time when historic buildings were not fashionable and as other cities were trading traditional downtowns for modern shopping centers, these visionaries understood that beyond mere aesthetics, there would be long term economic benefits to preserving a distinct sense of place. Suffice it to say that had it not been for forward thinkers like (Dr.) Grace, we could have ended up with none of the lasting, tangible links to our past that make Thomasville so attractive to residents and visitors alike.”
Because of his intense concern for preservation of handsome old houses, he renovated or restored houses not only in Thomasville, but in Savannah and Albany.
He joined the National Trust for Historic Preservation, serving 12 years as advisor for Georgia and becoming a member of the National Trust Heritage Society. An active member of All Saints Episcopal Church, Grace also served as a member of the Tallahassee Ballet Company board.
Grace served as chairman of the Thomas University Board of Trustees and was a founder of the Thomasville Antiques Show.
“(Dr. Ben) Grace was a longtime supporter of Thomas University,” Dr. Andy Sheppard, TU president, said. “(Dr.) Grace believed in the importance of higher education not just for individual students, but also for the community as a whole. He served on the TU Board of Trustees for two decades, including a stint as chairman in 2004 and 2005. (Dr.) Grace played an integral role in the growth of TU. As a lasting legacy of his commitment to Thomas University, we’re proud to have the Ben Grace Historic Quadrangle on the Forbes Campus, where our outdoor commencement ceremony is held each year.”
Sunny Taylor knew Grace well. She worked with him at his East Washington Street dental office for 25 years,. After he retired, she kept books for him, working with Grace a total of 37 years.
Taylor’s father died when was 26, three years after she began working for Grace. He became “like a father” to her, someone she could depend on.
As Grace approached his 90th birthday, Taylor began writing one line thank you notes to him for the many things Grace had done for her throughout their years together.
Taylor described Grace as “an awesome dancer.”
“His dance card was always full,” she said.
Grace was interviewed in 2013 about the games for a “Thomasville Scene” piece about the plantation.
After explaining that he won money from the president and Whitney, Grace said he thought he was asked to join plantation bridge games because he taught bridge at the time.