Claire Gace

Catherine Claire Gace, née Elliott, passed away June 29, 2018.

She was born in Johannesburg, South Africa to an academic family on May 9, 1941.

Her grandmother Dr. Nellie Spilhaus was a leading suffragette and played a significant role in getting the women’s vote in that country. Her great uncle, Sir Thomas Muir wrote the definitive treatise on mathematical determinants. Her uncle Athelstan, a professor of Oceanography at MIT invented the bathythermograph which saved countless lives during World War II by accurately sniffing out the exact location of enemy submarines. Her mother, Dr. Molly Elliott was a pediatrician. So there was little surprise when Claire entered the University of Cape Town at the tender age of 16 to major in chemistry.

From Cape Town Claire was accepted at Oxford, where in addition to gaining advanced teaching credentials, she excelled at swimming, earning her “blue” by representing Oxford against rival Cambridge in the butterfly and breaststroke.

Claire loved the outdoors. As a young girl she joined the Girl Guides achieving the highest rank in that organization by becoming a Queen’s Guide, the equivalent of an Eagle Scout.

Married to Francis Gace in Johannesburg, she moved to the USA in 1975, where she taught at Seven Hills in Cincinnati, Ohio. The couple then moved to Connecticut, where Claire became head of the science department at the Greenwich Academy for girls, teaching AP classes to both girls and boys from the affiliated Bruswick Academy.

Claire was a keen sailor, cruising the coasts of the USA from Seattle to Alaska, and from Connecticut to Nova Scotia and the Bahamas. At sea or skiing or camping Claire was always able to improvise with whatever materials were available to ensure the comfort of her children and grandchildren, earning the nickname “Granny MacGyver.”

Fifteen years ago the couple moved to Bainbridge Island to be near the children and grandchildren. Claire was a popular member of the Wing Point Golf & Country Club, where she enjoyed golf and bridge. She was also a keen potter. And gardener. She was a global traveler, but particularly loved the bushveld of South Africa and its flora and fauna.

In addition to her husband of 54 years, she leaves a son, Langley Gace and daughter Kate Walton and four grandchildren, all of whom live on the Island. She is also survived by two sisters in Australia and a brother in France.

A Celebration of Life memorial will be held at the Wing Point Golf & Country Club from 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 15. All those who knew Claire and friends of the family are welcome.

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