Dr. Grace C. Vaught was born on February 2, 1927, in Wilkes County, NC. Her parents were Joel Curtis and Grace Parson Curtis. Dr. Grace was the fourth child and second daughter but was raised by her mother’s parents upon the death of her father. This might have been the most impactful event in her life because her grandparents instilled a love of reading and education in her. Shortly after graduating from high school, as the war still raged in Europe and the Pacific, Dr. Grace traveled to the atomic city, Oak Ridge, TN, where she worked as a laboratory technician. Arriving on the day that President Roosevelt died, she settled into life in a dorm. In July of 1945, her roommate convinced her to go on a blind date. It was on that blind date that she met the love of her life, Joseph E. Vaught (deceased). He professed his love for her shortly after their meeting, but she put him off, because she was working until the War was over and was saving money to continue her education at Western North Carolina University on a scholarship. With time, he ceased asking the cute, young blond to be his wife, having given up on the possibility. By August, the workforce at Oak Ridge was being downsized to a non-war footing and both she and Joe would soon be unemployed. He was heading south, and she planned to return home to enter the university, but, as the day to depart grew nearer, she requested that he once again ask her to be his wife. He quipped that he would not because she would just turn him down, so she asked him. On November 10, 1945, they traveled to Ringgold, GA, where a justice of the peace pronounced them husband and wife.
Life’s journey took them to Homestead, FL, where she modeled clothes in a dress shop while Joe built houses for returning service men. She gave up her job when she learned they were pregnant. Their son, Curtis (Curt) Vaught (deceased) was born that fall. Nearly two years in business, Joe sold the thriving building business and headed to Pennsylvania to work. Their sojourn in Pennsylvania was cut short. After a dispute between Joe and the union boss, he packed his pregnant wife and young son to head south to non-union territory. They traveled to Wilkesboro to visit family in NC, but upon visiting a doctor, Grace learned that further travel would endanger her and the soon-to-be child. Joe needed work and stopped at a job site to enquire about a job. He was hired on and the small family made a home there. Their second child, Susan Vaught (Lindsey) was born a few short weeks later as the new decade began. They soon moved to Hickory for the construction of the College Park Junior High School. Hickory became their home. Their third child, Elizabeth (Betsy) was born in Hickory and completed their family.
In 1958, Grace began her college education at Lenoir-Rhyne. She was an apt student and completed her Bachelor of Science degree in three and a half years. Following college, she began her career as a teacher and taught in Marion and Granite Falls, at Grandview Junior High, and then St. Stephens High School. Her students remember her as the “best teacher” ever. She continued her education with a Master of Science from Appalachian State University and earned her Doctorate in Education from East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, TN.
The Vaughts were exchange student parents hosting Reinaldo Garcia from Brazil. Also, while Dr. Grace was teaching, they opened their home to displaced students ensuring the youth had shelter, food and security while completing their high school education.
Dr. Grace and Joe also owned Turtle Dove Bridal Boutique for many years. During those same years, they owned and directed the local franchise of the Miss America Scholarship Pageant. She expanded the pageant to include contests for girls from toddlers to young adults. Many young women received college assistance through the scholarship program associated with the pageant.
Prior to retiring from the job force, Dr. Grace worked as a curator at the Hickory Science Center. Upon retirement, and as Joe’s health declined, they moved to northwest Florida, making their home in Gilchrist County. While there, she became involved with the community library and was elected as president of the Friends of the Library. Under her direction and with the assistance of many dedicated volunteers, they catalogued and stacked hundreds of books. Dr. Grace wrote and received a grant from the Bill Gates Foundation to purchase computers for the library.
Dr. Grace was a 25-year member of the Hickory Tavern Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and served as chapter regent. She also served as President of the Hickory Woman’s Club. She was a dynamic leader and motivator in every organization in which she became involved.
Dr. Grace was the mother of three children, Curt Vaught (deceased); Lt. Col. (retired) Susan Lindsey (Michael) of Chattanooga, TN; Elizabeth (Betsy) Deitz (Tipton) of Conover and twelve grandchildren: Susan (Cyndi) Fifield (Daniel) of Aberdeen, NC; Stacy Norbeck (Matthew) of Reno, NV; Stephanie Wyatt (Timothy) of Millbrook, AL; Major Justin Smith (Cammie) of San Diego, CA; Jenna Teague (Jarrod) of Havelock, NC; and Jessie Smith and companion Brittany Stewart of Granite Falls. She was the great-grandmother of Brittany Fifield, Kimberly Fifield Downing, Ryan Fifield, Cara Fifield, Tristyn Berry, Coby Boggs, Elizabeth Wyatt, Grace Norbeck, Charlotte Norbeck, Jackson Teague, Lorelei Teague and Vivian Smith. Dr. Grace also had two “bonus grandsons,” Lee and Lance Deitz of Hickory. Married for 68 years, her loving husband, Joseph, preceded her in death in 2014. Additionally, her brothers Edwin and Junior Curtis preceded her to heaven. She is survived by her sister, Frances Curtis Gay, Helen Ferguson, Bobby Walker (Joann), all of Wilkes County, and Basil Walker (Gail) of Hilton Head, SC and sisters-in-law, Maxine Curtis of Wilkes County, Lou Curtis of Florida.
Dr. Grace and Joe will long be remembered for their impact on family and friends and their undying love for one another. Even as their eyes grew dim with age, Joe would watch her from across the room and with a grin, say “There goes my amazing Grace. Isn’t she the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen?”
Please join the family at the memorial service to honor and to remember Dr. Grace, known by family and friends as “Mama,” on Friday, February 8, 2019, at Highland Baptist Church at 4 p.m. with receiving from 2:30-4:00. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made in her honor to Carolina Caring, 3975 Robinson Road, Newton, NC 28658.