James Leland Grove

Born: May 6, 1941
Died: September 22, 2017

James L. Grove, later known to the world as Lee, was born in Chicago, son of Bert Edward and Dorothy Marie Black Grove. He prepared for Yale at Morgan Park Military School in Chicago and Elgin (Ill.) Academy.

At Yale, Lee was an English honors major, ranking scholar, on Dean’s List and on scholarship. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He was a resident of Sullivan.

After Yale, Lee studied at Harvard, receiving his A.M. in 1963 and his Ph.D. in English in 1967. He became an English Professor at University of Massachusetts at Boston in September 1965 and never left until his retirement. Lee had predicted his future occupation as teaching English and that was his employment. His writings in Class of 1962 publications, however, paint a picture of a very complicated, conflicted, but brilliant author.

His essay in our 25th Yearbook entitled “A Novelists Musings” paints a dark portrait of his conflicted feelings. Although he declared Yale as “the place that gave spiritual birth to me,” he “felt shut out, grown-up, dejected” whenever he returned to Yale during the first 25 years after graduation. He was struggling to be a writer.

His final words in his 1987 essay describe himself in the third person:

No matter how bleak and predestined his life seemed years ago, he always had the power to choose, whether he choose or not. Yale gave him that, like an act of grace. But as with so many acts of grace, it happened to bestow itself upon him like a drill, a corkscrew in the soul. Though he knows this too: even if the power to choose be an illusion, even if life is nothing but a series of bad accidents strung together in ripple effect, one of those accidents might bring a slender margin of good fortune.

Lee did ultimately publish. His first novel, Last Dance, debuted in 1984, followed by Tragedy in Florida and Drowning (Three Generations of the Drowner Family) He wrote book reviews for the Boston Globe and was a contributing editor to the Boston Magazine. Drowning was the subject of a Los Angeles Times review in November 1991, “An Author Explains What’s in a Name.” Lee also authored an article for the Detroit Journal, “Route 4, Traveling Man.”

Lee never married and never had children. No surviving family members are known.

In our class book in 2002, Lee wrote of the tragedies in his life: his mother’s suffering from Alzheimer’s, his stepfather’s death of brain disease, the devastating loss of his closest friend, classmate Pierce Gerety, in the Swiss Air crash, his sister’s illness, and damages to his home caused by a neighbor’s carelessness.

His closing words were bleak:

If anyone looking at a childhood photograph of oneself could have known then what grief and horrors awaited, no one would want to live.
The world’s an abattoir, a fucking mess. And Hobbes was right.
But so what.
Caring well for a few good people is all the matters. Though they won’t last either.

He passed away in Cambridge, Massachusetts on September 22, 2017.

Your scribe invites classmates to contribute memories of Lee.

Robert G. Oliver