Obituary Listings

Donald Wayne Grace

November 7, 1927 July 27, 2019
Donald Wayne Grace
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Obituary for Donald Wayne Grace

Donald Wayne Grace lived a long life filled with exotic experiences and a whole lot of love and music. A musician and educator, he was always a teacher, up till the end—the reason his children and grandchildren were reluctant to ask him how to solve a math problem or explain a chord progression! Born in Pittsburgh, PA in 1927 to John Wesley and Esther Grace, he is the youngest of three boys, all who lived into their nineties: Nelson Grace, and Charles Grace.
He met his wife of 69 years, Viola, on a Greyhound bus and were married three months later on the 4th of July in 1947. He always said, “They made a holiday out of our anniversary!”
Together they had five children: Donna Grace; David Grace (Evelyn); Maggi Grace (Susan Clements); Judi Smith; Ken Grace (Betsy). They had six grandchildren: Philip, Aaron, Bryan, Thane, Jennifer, and Daniel, and the source of much joy, their ten Great Grandchildren.

Don earned a BA in Engineering and a Masters in Math from Carnegie Tech. He was a first lieutenant in the Army Corp of Engineers, managing the supply side of Operations both domestic and in Germany. His post was the Combat Engineer Unit Commander in the 185th Engineer Combat Battalion. He worked for Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati, OH where he set up one of the first mainframe computers, and taught at Xavier University’s night school until P&G sent him to Stanford University to earn his Masters in Computational Analysis (now “Computer Science”). His family grew up with punch cards as scratch paper! With his wife and five children he stayed for an extra year and got his PhD from Stanford as well, before returning to Cincinnati. After Cincinnati, he followed his dream of teaching to Oklahoma State University, where he taught Math and Computer Science for 15 years. He taught for a year in Germany which began their life of worldwide travel – from New Zealand to Egypt. He retired again and taught Math and Computer Science at Francis Marion University in Florence, SC. He retired a third time and moved to Durham where he taught a course at Duke called "The Mathematics of Music and Vice Versa." One of his biggest pleasures was being an honored 50-year lifetime member in the Barbershop Harmony Society, where he sang in many quartets and choruses, competing internationally, and mentoring young H.S. singers. He had his pilot's license and has owned several small planes. For a hobby, he and Viola owned a couple dozen polled Hereford cows on their 160-acre farm outside Stillwater, Oklahoma. They also were volunteer tutors in Durham Public Schools as long as they were able. He was an extremely devoted husband and father and community servant. He worked at the Sheltered Workshop for Adults with disabilities, served on the Town Council, bought Christmas trees and coats for families in every city he lived in.

Perhaps more than anything else, Don was known as the “Piano Man” at the Retirement Communities where they lived, wearing keyboard suspenders! He hand-selected songs to play for each resident’s birthday and played for holidays and special events. He played any instrument he picked up but was most known for playing the piano by ear. He never had a lesson in his life, and, as some say, "He's forgotten more songs than most people know."

Keep listening…you can still hear him playing! Please join the family in celebrating his larger-than-life life in The Gathering Room at Clements Funeral Home, 1105 Broad Street, Durham, NC 27705 on Monday, July 29th from 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM.

In lieu of flowers, donations to honor Donald Grace may be made to the Harmony Foundation International at
or Barbershop Harmony Society: 110 Seventh Ave.N, Suite 200, Nashville, TN 37203, Please specify contributions to “Youth Barbershop Programs”.

To send flowers or a remembrance gift to the family of Donald Wayne Grace, please visit our Tribute Store.

Previous Events

Celebration of Life




10:00 AM 7/29/2019 10:00:00 AM - 12:00 PM 7/29/2019 12:00:00 PM
Gathering Room at Clements Funeral Home

1117 Broad St
Durham, NC 27705

Gathering Room at Clements Funeral Home
1117 Broad St Durham 27705 NC
United States

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