"Grand Valley lost a friend today with the passing of Grace Hauenstein," President Thomas J. Haas said. "Grace was a woman of courage and faith. She touched many lives throughout West Michigan and, indeed, the country. I am proud that her legacy as a leader in her community and church will live on through the important work of the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies," Haas added. "Our hearts go out to Ralph and his family as we celebrate the life of a woman who was an inspiration to us all."
Grace's strength and patriotism became apparent early on in her marriage to Ralph. For nearly four years, she raised three small children alone, away from her husband throughout his top-secret service as chief of the Intelligence Branch in the Army's European theater of operations during World War II. In 1945, Ralph was among the first Americans into liberated Paris, war-torn Germany, and Nazi concentration camps.
Gleaves Whitney, director of the Hauenstein Center, noted that Grace and Ralph were always a team. “Among married people, they were a championship team. It is hard to imagine one without the other,” Whitney said. “As a couple married for almost 76 years, they have been a blessing to those of us fortunate enough to know them — generous, loving, loyal, good-natured, and fun. She had such a sparkle in her eyes, especially when Ralph was in the room.
"I once asked Ralph what was the secret to their unusually long and successful marriage," said Whitney. "Without hesitation he said, 'Trust. I could always trust Grace, and she could always trust me. Back during World War II, when I was in Europe, she had to raise our children alone. She never complained, not once. She was always strong and courageous.'"
A native of Big Rapids, Michigan, Grace graduated from the nursing education program of St. Mary's Hospital where she worked for two years. St. Mary’s is now home to the Hauenstein Parkinson's Center. After the war, Grace helped to care for their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren while supporting her husband's multi-faceted philanthropic and business interests. Active at St. Stephen's Catholic Church for 60 years, she received, along with her husband, the Bishop's Award from the Catholic Foundation of West Michigan. Grace was a Lady Commander of the Knights of the Holy Sepulcher and supporter of the Guardian Angel Homes. She was a long-time friend of Grand Valley State University, Aquinas College, and other West Michigan institutions.
Mass of the Resurrection will be offered at St. Stephen Catholic Church in East Grand Rapids at 10 a.m. on Saturday, December 29.