My father passed away 42 years ago. He was a talented businessman, an avid traveler, and a strict, loving father. I’ve now lived more years on this earth without him than with him, but his life, habits, and ideas still influence me every day. Here’s what I learned from my father, Lee Gravely. 

1. When you are traveling, call home often. I remember my father’s long-distance phone calls from when I was a little girl. Back then, you had to schedule phone calls from abroad many days in advance, and my sister and brothers and I would eagerly count down the days and hours until the planned time. I remember our pure glee when the phone would finally ring, and all of us would scramble to be the one to pick it up to shriek, “Hey, Daddy!!” into the receiver. Now I’m the one traveling frequently, and I am usually working hard all day long, but I still make the time to call home. It helps me feel connected to my loved ones and helps me remember what’s really important. 

2. Accept coaching. I was the first girl in my Episcopal church in Rocky Mount, NC to be selected to give a sermon. My father knew this was a big deal, and he wanted me to do well. He made me go to the church to practice, and he sat in the back row as I climbed up into the pulpit. I began to talk, and he coached me from the back row: “I can’t hear you; speak up!” over and over again. He wanted me to speak clearly and to enunciate, and I took a lot from this experience. Advice helps you learn and grow; welcome it. 

3. Work hard and also have fun. My father was a fairly serious man. His business trips often spanned many weeks, and he worked long hours at the office. He had a very strong work ethic, and he wanted us to have the same. When he passed away, however, he did something that surprised my siblings and me. He left each of us a small sum of money earmarked for “blowing it on something fun.” He was a good steward of money, but every now and then he liked to splurge on something purely for fun, and he wanted the same for us. This taught me that a life can be full of drive and purpose, and there is also room for enjoyment and indulgence.

4. Dance. My father and mother were beautiful dancers. They took weekly lessons with their friends, and when they came home, my father would let Frances and me stand on his toes as he showed us the steps. If ever there is an opportunity for dancing, whether it’s at a wedding or in my kitchen when a song I love comes on the radio, I try to take it, and I remember him. 


  • Brenda McConologue Schwartz

    Susan, that was truly beautiful. I enjoyed visualizing you and your sister dancing on your Dad’s feet. I love that you have so many wonderful memories of him. Life does go by so fast. It was just yesterday that you and I were sharing that top floor of the Stetson’s guest house at North Water St., on Nantucket. Keep enjoying your wonderful ,creative and important life, Susan. I know you’ve helped many artisans be appreciated and their works, enjoyed. I know I certainly have loved all my ceramics which they crafted. Santa Monica is still home for me, but I get back to NYC and Nantucket once and a while too. With fond appreciation for those memories, Brenda

  • Susan Groder

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute and memoire of your father.

  • patricia lee

    A beautiful tribute to your father. I have enjoyed reading about Italy and your posts. The luxury trip offered, wow, what a trip. I hope others are offered in the future. I was in Italy, once, over 20 years ago and if I have opportunity to go again, I’ll have gelato every day. The very best to you.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.