Stuart Gross spent his life writing, and teaching and encouraging others with their own writing. He found a way to continue that encouragement even after his own lifetime.
Stu was born February 2, 1914 in Vincennes, Indiana. Following graduation from Hope College in Holland, Michigan, he became a reporter/photographer for the Saginaw News. He specialized in covering education news and events and he won statewide attention when he was awarded the Michigan School Bell in 1961.
He retired from the News as city editor in 1967 to begin a new career as community affairs director at Saginaw Valley College (now Saginaw Valley State University) where he managed the growth of that department.
In 1974, Margaret Grathwohl came to work with Stu, shortly after graduating from the University of Michigan. She said “Stu taught me to write news style and think like a reporter—skills which helped me all though my working life and particularly my 37-year career in General Motors Communications and Public Relations. I knew and respected Stu as a boss and a teacher and appreciated his extra-curricular writing.” She added, “sometimes I still find myself thinking, ‘How would Stu do this?’” She retired in 1979 as assistant to the president.
His third career—the “extra-curricular writing” was impressive. His first book Indians, Jacks and Pines is probably his best-known. It was the first authentic local history book written for use in Saginaw‘s elementary schools. It was illustrated by Saginaw artists Ralph Misiak and Sam Carter.
In its review of the book, the Saginaw News described it as ”…a beautiful creation of artistic taste and reliable information. Although it will be used in Saginaw schools to teach 5th graders, it is not a juvenile book. It reads easily, but is not written down and avoids oversimplicity. It covers the very beginnings of Saginaw up to its place as an entity of state and national economic significance, covering the colorful personalities and events that helped shape Saginaw.”
His other books about Saginaw history included Saginaw: A History of the Land and the City (1980). In that book, Stu noted “Coinciding almost exactly with the California gold rush, the Michigan logging bonanza was actually richer than the gold strikes, making this area just as rich, gaudy, rowdy, bawdy and lusty as the Barbary Coast ever was.”
Stu also wrote The Saginaws: When Timber Was King. A musical play in two acts “Green Gold” (with book by Dorothy Rogoza) received admiring reviews when it appeared on stage at the Civic Center.
If “Green Gold” showed the bright side of the lumbering era, one of Stu’s later books Frankie and the Barons explored the dark underside of those turbulent times. Other books included Trouble at the Grass Roots, a discussion of local government; Where There Is a Will, a history of higher education in the Saginaw Valley, detailing the beginning of Delta College and Saginaw Valley College; May It Please the Court: A history of the first 150 years of the law profession in Saginaw County. With Jerry Werle, he wrote and produced a three-act comedy-drama, “Let’s Have Lunch Sometime.”
The Stolen Christmas Star is a delightful fairy tale dedicated to his two beloved daughters, Amy and Mary.
And Stu would definitely want to be remembered as an avid golfer with three holes-in-one.
In 1994, he and his wife Vernice created an endowment to fund “The Stuart D. and Vernice M. Gross Award for Literature” which is presented to writers of original works of prose, non-fiction, prose fiction and drama with preference given to Michigan subject matter and strong Michigan connections on the part of the author.
Stuart D. Gross died in Saginaw on December 26, 1996.
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