Gradus Shoemaker ’44

Gradus Shoemaker ’44 of Louisville, KY, passed away peacefully in his sleep, December 24, 2018, after living a fascinating and extremely productive life of nearly 98 years.

Gradus L. Shoemaker was born on January 18, 1921, in Zeeland, Michigan to Corey and Hattie ( Lubbers) Shoemaker. Gradus graduated from Zeeland High School in 1939 and attended Hope College, where he graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1944.

Immediately after graduation, he enlisted in the US Navy, earned the rank of ensign and served as communications officer on the USS Henrico, APA45, an attack transport ship that participated in the landings on Okinawa during WWII. The Henrico was struck by a Kamikazi plane during that battle and lost more than fifty men. As a result of the attack, Gradus was hospitalized until the end of the war.

After the war, Gradus received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from University of Illinois and did post graduate work at Rutgers University and Montana State University. He became Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the University of Louisville in 1949. He served as Professor, Chairman of the Department of Chemistry, Chairman of the Division of Natural Science and as Commencement Grand Marshal for thirteen years. He was the last surviving member of the chemistry group that introduced the Ph.D. (Chemistry) program to the university in the early 1950s.

Gradus was an active member of the American Chemical Society from 1947 until his retirement in 1988, serving twice as chairman of the local section. He was also a member of The Society of the Sigma Xi, Phi Lambda Upsilon, Alpha Chi Sigma, Alpha Epsilon Delta, Phi Kappa Phi.

It was at The University of Louisville where Gradus met his wife to be, Florence E. Wright.

They married on June 5, 1952, and were married for nearly 66 years, until Florence’s passing in April of 2018. His many interests included history and genealogy and he was a member of Louisville Historical Society and Louisville Genealogical Society. Because Gradus grew up on a farm, he loved gardening. He also loved to travel across this country and around the world. Gradus and Florence traveled the world together, visiting more than fifty countries on six continents. Gradus was also an enthusiastic Louisville Cardinals supporter, having held season tickets since the 1950s.

Gradus was a member of Bardstown Road Presbyterian Church since 1952 and had served his church in many positions including as Elder, Member of Session, and Chairman of the Buildings and Grounds Committee. He was devoted to helping his friends and serving his community. He was an Honorary Kentucky Colonel, a member of Covenant Housing Executive Committee, a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, The American Red Cross and served as Assistant Scout Master of Boy Scout Troop 246.

Dr. Shoemaker was preceded in death by his parents and his younger sister, Elizabeth Grace Shoemaker and his wife, Florence Wright Shoemaker. He is survived by his two children, Robert N. Shoemaker (Tracy) and Elizabeth “Betty” S. Dotson (Dennis), both of Louisville and numerous extended family.

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