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Grace Rich, English teacher, dies at 93

Grace Rich died after a three-year struggle with

Grace Rich died after a three-year struggle with colon cancer. She was 93. Credit: handout

Grace Henderson Rich was a woman of a "different era," according to those who knew her best. A longtime English teacher from St. James, she was a scholar of Greek history and the Bible, and she loved opera.

Rich died Tuesday after a three-year struggle with colon cancer. She was 93.

Born in Throgs Neck, the Bronx, in 1919, Rich graduated from Elmira College at 18. She earned her master's degree from Columbia University.

Before she and her husband, the late Williston C. Rich, moved to Suffolk County in 1947, she had launched a career as a reporter. At Time magazine, she interviewed the likes of actors Ingrid Bergman and Danny Kaye.

It was at Time that she met Rich, who worked there as an editor and war correspondent.

Grace Rich had become a young widow; her first husband, an Englishman, died during World War II.

After his death, she began seeing Rich, but only casually, because romance amid the backdrop of war seemed inappropriate, said their daughter, Alexandra Rich, 64, of St. James.

"There were more important things to do," she said. For instance, her father was busy covering the war and Gen. George C. Marshall.

The couple reunited on V-E Day and married later that year. Their marriage lasted 47 years, until Williston Rich's death in 1992. They were longtime residents of St. James.

When she left Time, Rich took up teaching. She worked as a Latin teacher at the Knox School in Nissequogue, and helped found day and nursery schools in Suffolk County, before becoming a junior high and high school English teacher.

Since her mother's passing, Alexandra Rich said she has heard from a handful of her former students.

"She was devoted to them and they loved her back," Rich said. "It wasn't always about the stars, but the students who had to struggle the most who she loved the best."

Bonnie Thivierge, a Smithtown teacher who taught with Grace Rich for 25 years, described her as a mentor.

"There aren't a lot of individuals around like her, at least in my estimation," she said. "She was a scholar in so many ways, but you wouldn't know it when you saw her. She was so funny."

A favorite pastime of her mother's, said Alexandra Rich, was hosting cabaret nights at home every Saturday night. She and friends sang World War II-era songs.

Rich is also survived by a son, Williston C. Rich III, 66, of Hudson, Ohio. Her funeral was held Saturday at St. James Episcopal Church.

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