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Dr. H. Ben's Story

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Dr. Hill Benjamin Grace of Thomasville, Georgia, died October 11, 2017. There will be a service for him at All Saints' Episcopal Church, 443 South Hansell St., Wednesday, October 18, 2017 at 11 o'clock a.m. The Reverend Frederick Buechner and the Reverend Paul Hancock will officiate, and Dr. Grace's remains will be put to rest in the All Saints Memorial Garden. Dr. Grace practiced dentistry for 55 years, coming to Thomasville in 1947 to work with Dr. W. M. Searcy. In 1950 he was called into service and commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. He served as a dentist, first at the Marine Base at Paris Island, S.C., and later was transferred to duty at sea aboard the troop transport USS Randall, where he served as sole dentist for a year and a half. Upon his discharge in 1953, he returned to Thomasville, where he renovated an older home at 111 E. Washington St. to become his office. Taking care of the dental needs of multiple generations of families, Dr. Grace practiced dentistry in that location until his retirement in February, 2003. Dr. Grace was born on November 28, 1922, in Graceville, Florida, a son of the late Hill Bennett and Nellie Tindell Grace. In 1926 the family moved to Albany, Georgia, where Dr. Grace graduated from high school. He first attended North Georgia College and then transferred to Emory University, graduating with honors in 1947 from the Emory University School of Dentistry. He was elected to Omicron Kappa Upsilon Honorary Fraternity, Lambda chapter, and was also a member of Psi Omega dental fraternity. Dr. Grace genuinely enjoyed the practice of his chosen profession, and his enthusiasm actually influenced a number of dentists now practicing also to become doctors of dental science. Until his retirement in 2003, Dr. Grace was an active Life Member of the American Dental Association and the Georgia Dental Association. He took pride in participating yearly in the Hinman Dental Society, whose mission is to provide continuing education for practitioners and scholarships for students in the dental field. Ben Grace had another passion--transforming tired old houses into show places. A founding member of Thomasville Landmarks, Dr. Grace served as its President and longtime board member, eventually being awarded emeritus status. His intense concern for the preservation of handsome old homes motivated him to renovate or restore houses in Savannah, Albany, and Thomasville, Georgia. Their restored beauty and character now enhance the neighborhoods in which they stand and continue to inspire others to follow Dr. Grace's lead. His interests in preservation further led him to join the National Trust for Historic Preservation, serving for 12 years as advisor for the State of Georgia and becoming a member of the National Trust Heritage Society. He was a founding member of the Georgia Trust for Historical Preservation, which now boasts a huge membership of Georgians promoting historic preservation and is the largest state-wide preservation organization in the United States. Having helped both physically and financially in the effort to save Eastside School for a Cultural Center, Dr. Grace became a charter member of the organization, now called the Thomasville Center for the Arts, and served on its board for many years. He also served as president of the Thomasville Arts Guild, and was a board member of the Thomasville Genealogical Library and the Thomasville Historical Society. Ben Grace dearly loved music and dance and theater and was a distinctly appreciative member of the audience for the performing artists brought by the Thomasville Entertainment Foundation, and later for the Music and Drama Troupe teen-agers. He could hardly wait to clap and cheer! In Tallahassee he was a board member of the Tallahassee Ballet Company. Dr. Grace belonged to First United Methodist Church for many years. Later he was an active member of All Saints' Episcopal Church, always interested in preserving and improving the historic frame church building occupied by the congregation. His vision helped to make the little church on a busy corner a landmark for worship.
At Thomas University Dr. Grace was a tireless promoter of the growing institution and served as chairman of the Board of Trustees. He was the recipient of Doctor of Humane Letters from the university, and an endowment for a distinguished teaching chair was established in his name. A member of the once active Men's Garden Club and a past president and board member of the Thomasville Rose Society, Dr. Grace grew prize-winning camellias and orchids. He was an avid bridge player, and achieved Life Master in duplicate bridge competition. About living in Thomasville, Ben Grace once ended a little speech with this sentence, "I feel very fortunate and grateful that I found this wonderful town!" One of the many ways he gave back to his "wonderful town" was to donate to the city part of the property on Remington Ave. now occupied by the many, many ball fields used by Thomas County youth. He also was a founder of the Thomasville Antiques Show, its proceeds through the years supporting dozens of children's programs in the area. The 17th Antiques Show was dedicated in his honor. Dr. Grace was preceded in death by a brother, Eugene Grace, and two sisters, Bessie Lee Grace and Albia Grace Ellis. He was also preceded in death by his brother-in-law, Alex Ellis, his good friend and compatriot. Mrs. Sunny Taylor and Mrs. Billie Jo Beverly were instrumental in Dr. Grace's care, as was the staff of Southern Pines Senior Living and Archbold Hospice of Southwest Georgia. His dedicated caregivers were Yvonne Atkins, Anna Brinson, Debbie Brooks, Linda Cooper, Stephanie Daniels, and Yidonna Daniels. Although Ben Grace had no other family, there are countless friends and admirers who will treasure the memory of his creative energy, his commitment to our "wonderful town", and his zest for life. Family and friends are invited to visit and sign his online guest book at www.allenfh.com
Published on October 15, 2017
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