TRUE GRACE

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This space, usually reserved for Rance Crain's column, has been turned over to Mark Vittert, a close family friend, reminiscing on the life of Gertrude Ramsay Crain, the chairman emeritus of Crain Communications Inc,. who died on July 20. This column originally ran in the July 29 edition of the St. Louis Business Journal. Mr. Crain's column will resume next week.

Real grace is undefinable. We attribute certain distinct qualities to that recipe, but in the end, grace is not-cannot-be broken into measurable parts. It can't be married or inherited or merged, nor can it be learned or acquired. It is, rather, a seamless blend...the original home, real love, a natural kindness, a love of all creatures great and small. Real grace-you just know it when you see it-and you don't forget it.

Gertrude Crain and I met 18 years ago. She was seated between her two boys. I was interested in beginning a newspaper-they owned lots of them. I thought the idea of a business journal was a good one; they had created the example. They knew what they were doing; I did not, and that was quite clear. I had come to Chicago to visit the Crains, for advice; instead, they gave me time, help and experience.

Mrs. Crain said, "Mark, we'd be happy to help you in any way." And they did. Her two sons Rance and Keith were the same way. There must have been something in the water fountains at Crain Communications...because everyone there seemed to have been influenced by the evident grace of the chairman of the board.

As the years passed, I spent a bit of time with Mrs. Crain...What a pleasure that was. Well, all except for that time that, to save Rance's chance of a golf victory over me, she slogged back into a swampy area on the Leland, Mich., golf course to find an errant shot so that Rance wouldn't have to take a penalty. (He went on to win, of course.)

I remember once remarking to Rance that his mom reminded me so much of my own. But once again, as the years passed, it became clear that Mrs. Crain made us all think of our moms; inevitably, we saw the best parts of our mothers in her. Whether it was humor, tolerance, patience or courage, or just simply the pure love of her boys, she could have been anybody's and everybody's mom.

A few years ago, she asked me to come for a visit to Chicago...to have dinner together. I'll never forget that night-stories, laughing and once, crying. As she had before, she spoke so respectfully and lovingly of "D," the love of her life (her husband, G.D. Crain Jr., who had died in the early '70s). All the emotions were there, when you were with Gertrude Crain, all sincere and all true...that's how she brought out the best in you.

At the end of dinner that night, we were walking toward a room where there was a band playing some lovely old song, a favorite of Mrs. Crain's. Would you like to dance one dance? I asked.

She thought for a moment and then looked at me with that sparkle in her eyes and said, "No, I don't think I want to dance tonight, but could we walk just very slowly past that room (where the band was). I just love that song." She took my arm.

On the back of the liturgy for the funeral mass there was a long-ago, happy picture of Mr. and Mrs. G.D. Crain Jr. Below their names it simply said, "Reunited."

Real love, true grace.

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