CASPER—Long-time Casper resident Lee Grace passed away March 27, 2020 at age 100.
Lee was born August 5, 1919 and was raised in Webster Groves, Mo., but he found his true home in Casper and left his heart in the state.
“It’s been a helluva trip!” Lee remarked on his milestone birthday last August, reflecting on a life of chances taken, adventures sought and few regrets.
Lee started his own independent career in the oil business in the mid 1950s, when Casper was the ultimate “boom” town. So many young men flocked to Casper during that period that Life Magazine did a lengthy feature on the eligible bachelors, Lee included!
Bachelor days ended when Lee met his late wife, Barbara, during a ski weekend in Aspen, Colo. Lee and Barbara celebrated 52 years of marriage and raised two children in Casper before her passing in 2012.
For most of his 60 years in the oil business, Lee kept an office on the eighth floor of the First Interstate Bank building, operating with an IBM Selectric typewriter and manual adding machine. He never owned a computer. He loved the oil business, treasured the friendships, and daily lunches at the Casper Petroleum Club.
Lee learned to ski while attending Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and brought this love to Casper, as a founder of Hogadon Ski Area. He proudly held a gold “lifetime pass” and skied well into his late 80s, still wearing his leather lace-up Molitor boots.
Every August for nearly 50 years, Lee joined a group of Casper friends dubbed the “Cheerful Charlies” for a week of backpacking throughout the Wind Rivers, Big Horns or Tetons. During the 1960s and 70’s a cluster of “Cheerfuls” met before work to “shuffle” four laps around the NCHS dirt track, to prepare for this expedition. While the backpacking transitioned to a camping trip in later years, the friendships, everclear punch and traditions remained.
Lee lived a life brimming with adventures and experiences. Upon his 1941 college graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy where he served as a flight instructor and fighter pilot, primarily flying Hellcat fighters off of aircraft carriers.
Wanderlust struck in the years after his service. Several years of managing offices for American Express in Austria and Italy, working as a cowhand at a ranch in New Mexico, and crewing on a large schooner were among his resume entries.
In 2015, Lee moved to Oregon for more help from his daughter and son-in-law. He loved daily walks, trips to Palm Springs, and getting news from the Casper Star Tribune. As his care needs progressed this year, Lee relocated to Austin, Texas to be closer to his son and daughter-in-law.
Although Lee’s lifespan bridged the Spanish flu and COVID pandemics, he passed peacefully from natural causes related to age.
He is survived by his children: son, Mark, daughter-in-law, Marie Grace and granddaughters, Lindsay and Jaimie Grace; and daughter, Betsy, son-in-law, Carsten Henningsen and granddaughters, Callie and Leah Henningsen. In addition, he is greatly missed by his border collie grand-dog, Sophie.
Still active and engaged at his 100th birthday, Lee counted himself lucky and was in awe of his milestone birthday. “It’s impossible,” he said, to sum up the last 100 years!”
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