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Charles D. Grinnell

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Charles David Grinnell, 89, of Washington, DC, died peacefully on Friday, October 12th, 2012 at his Observatory Circle home in the nations capitol. Born in Dover, Mass., Dec. 5, 1922, he was the son of Dr. Francis B. and Winifred Dean Grinnell, and was known to friends and family as David and Unca David. In his early years, he attended the Fenn School in Concord, MA, and the Dublin School in Dublin, N.H., until he moved to Beaulieu in Hampshire, England with his family in 1934. In England, he attended the Canford School. He described these years as a time of great happiness (and mischief). At the outbreak of World War II, he returned with his family to Massachusetts, attended Harvard University, and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces, where he served as a waist gunner in the B-24 Liberator Belle of the East. While in the USAAF, he flew 25 missions, and crash-landed at Belton in Norfolk, England, in 1944, where he was rescued by a farmer and shop-keeper, who, according to the Daily Mail, waded into the wreckage. After learning their identities in 1997, Mr. Grinnell returned to England to thank them. After the war, Mr. Grinnell moved to Washington, DC, where he worked with an electrical business, Universal Dynamics, renovated housing for low-income families, was the first Commissioner of the his neighborhoods Advisory Neighborhood Commission and became chairman of the influential Committee of 100 on the Federal City, playing an important role in preventing the establishment of an interstate freeway system through the heart of Washington, DC. As a veteran, he also actively opposed the final design and location of the WWII memorial on the national mall, which he felt was a blight on the landscape and a discredit to those who served. He was active in Democratic politics and was a Morris Udall delegate to the 1976 Democratic National Convention. He was also an unconventional and entertaining tour guide, leading friends and family on epic treks to obscure and underappreciated sites. Mr. Grinnell was an atheist and secular humanist - his philosophical inspirations ranging from Arthur Schlesinger Sr. to Mahatma Gandhi. As a philanthropist, civic activist and volunteer, he supported the American Civil Liberties Union, the Drug Policy Foundation, Americans for Democratic Action, Common Cause and the National Gallery of Art, among others. He was also an avid sailor, an insatiable reader and a lover of animals. He was married to the late Alice Tip Manahan. He was predeceased by two sisters, Daphne Grinnell Williams and Winifred Joan Grinnell Canby; and Simon his much beloved Dalmatian. David leaves a brother, Michael Grinnell of Kaunakakai, Hawaii; a sister, Nancy Sayre of Marion, Mass.; and many nieces and nephews. In Washington, DC, he leaves behind his two cats, Zelda and Ecgberht. In his last days, Mr. Grinnell offered a final glimpse of himself. As a wit, he wished to draw attention to the last words of writer Norman Douglas. As a gentleman, he highlighted a favorite quote from his friend Albert Maizels: Be nice. As an activist, in lieu of flowers, he requested that friends and family take at least four people to the polls on election day, and re-elect Barack Obama as President of the United States.

Published in The Dover Press from Nov. 6 to Nov. 13, 2012
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