Warren County school board member on to new adventure

Apr. 22, 2013 @ 05:27 PM

In 1994, Charles Grady returned to the Warren County home where he was born.

The house at 147 Ridgeway-Warrenton Road had been built by his grandfather in 1906. When Grady and his wife LaVerne arrived, it had been empty for five years. The surviving family members wanted to sell it. Grady asked, “Are there any problems with my buying it?”

There weren’t, so he and LaVerne moved in after renovating and modernizing the house.

“LaVerne was very happy to come here, as was I,” he said. “It’s always been home to me.”

Grady quickly became involved in the community.

“I re-introduced myself, because I had been gone so long,” Grady said. “The name Charles Grady didn’t mean much.”

But he became known. In the years since moving to Warrenton, he has been active with Preservation Warrenton, the Warren County Community Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, the Arts Council, the board of trustees of Warren County Memorial Library and the county planning board. And for a number of years he has served as organist at St. Joseph Catholic Church and the Warrenton Presbyterian Church.

As if those activities were not enough retirement activity, he decided to run for the Warren County Board of Education. His first effort in 1998 was unsuccessful. But in 2002, he was elected. He has been re-elected twice since then. And recently, he tendered his resignation.

After growing up in Warren County and attending John R. Hawkins School, Grady left to attend Virginia State University, where he earned a bachelor of music degree in 1958. Later, he would earn a law degree from the Rutgers School of Law.

After graduating from VSU, Grady worked a short time as a music therapist at Central State Hospital in Petersburg. His stay there was short but significant. It was there that he met his wife. They were married in 1959.

Grady went on active duty with the U.S. Army, having received an ROTC commission as a second lieutenant. He served for four years, nine months in New Jersey and in Germany. LaVerne accompanied him to Germany. Their daughter, Tana, was born there.

Upon leaving military service, Grady and his family settled in Teaneck, N.J. For several years he worked in the accounting department of a New York City firm before becoming a teacher of instrumental music with the Teaneck public schools.

He retired after 28 years to return to Warren County, to a different lifestyle and to the home his grandfather built.

“I’m still amazed at how enterprising he was,” Grady said.

Both of his maternal grandparents, Mary Green Wortham and James S. Wortham, were college graduates.

“They wanted to be teachers, but the pay wasn’t good enough,” Grady said, “so they went into business.”

James Wortham ran several enterprises including a general store at the corner of Main and Franklin streets in Warrenton. He sold stock in his company and made loans.

“Collateral might be a cow,” Grady said.

Grady’s father, James C. Grady, was an African Methodist Episcopal minister from New Hanover County. He came to Kittrell College in the 1920s. On a visit to Warrenton, he met Eleanor Wortham, who became his wife. They had five children, two of whom survived to adulthood — Charles Grady and a sister.

Grady’s wife died in 2000. He has since married Theresa “Terri” Blum.

The closeness of his new family became clear when Grady developed kidney failure. He began dialysis in October 2004. He applied for a kidney transplant but was informed that he might wait five or six years for a donor unless he could find someone to donate a kidney. His own family members were not appropriate matches.

“Terri got on the phone to her family,” he said. “All of them said yes. Her sister volunteered without hesitation.” In 2006 he received her kidney. He adds, “I’m 76 and my kidney is only 50.”

As he was regaining his health, Grady suffered another loss when his daughter died of cancer in 2011 at the age of 48. Educated as a psychiatrist, she had received her medical degree from Duke University and was associate dean for medical education at Oregon Health & Science University School of Medicine.

Contemplating a more relaxed lifestyle, Grady has submitted his resignation to the school board, effective July 1. He and Terri will be moving to Canyon Lake, Texas, where she has relatives.

“It’s a country place,” he said. “I’m not moving to the city. It’s about as rural as Warrenton.”

Grady is pleased with the progress the schools have made during his tenure on the school board, including changes such as the creation of three distinctive high schools — New Tech, Early College and the more traditional Warren County High School.

“Another thing I’m excited about is the SPLASH program that will be taking place at Northside Elementary School.”

SPLASH is a Spanish language immersion program.

“I’m sorry I won’t be here to see it come to fruition,” Grady said. “I’m grateful to the people of Warren County for giving me the opportunity to serve them, the families and the children. I’ve enjoyed my life here. Now it’s off to another adventure in Texas.”

Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.