We in the archery world have suffered a great loss with the death a week ago of Dr Charles E. Grayson. His long association with the Society of Archer-Antiquaries is only one of his many accomplishments. The articles he wrote were always interesting and often contained insightful analysis. He acted as an officer as well and took his work for the Society very seriously.
He was a life long collector of archery equipment. Some years ago he donated his collection to the University of Missouri, Columbia, and recently the University published a beautifully illustrated catalogue of the collection. Even in his later years, he collected and forwarded on items of interest to the University. He had an eye for detail and an encyclopaedic knowledge of archery and natural history which made it possible to identify things that would have puzzled the most adept anthropologist.
He was a successful target archer and hunter. His competitive drive insured that he put the utmost effort into everything he did. However, it is in flight archery that he made the greatest contribution. He was a competitor and an official. He encouraged others to take part. He was a friend of Ike Hancock and the late Harry Drake. Part of his collection was devoted to the modern development of flight archery and preserves significant artefacts in the experimental sport that is still the cutting edge of archery design.
He was born on a farm in Iowa in the Mid-West of the United States of America in 1910. He had a large and loving family, but some of his early experiences were very harrowing. Several years ago, he and I went searching through the farm lands of Iowa looking for the old farm house, but it was gone. Even the railroad tracks had been ripped up. He had an acute sense of history, having lived through so much of it, and accepted this disappearance of the past with equanimity.
Several careers made his life productive and satisfying. He was an engineer, a surgeon and finally a radiologist of great skill and considerable business success. His papers from the 1950's are still in print on the Internet and he was entertaining the nurses in hospital with amazing stories when I visited him last September. Even when studying medicine, his hands on approach led to him making medical instruments for his professor. Despite his later success, he spent many years living a hard life. As a teenager he road the rails to Arizona to meet an uncle who had been in a posse chasing Billy the Kid. He also worked a waiter to pay for his tuition. As an engineer, he worked on high tension electrical cables. When he became a radiologist, he and his partners set up the largest practice on the West Coast of the USA at that time.
During his time in the armed services in the Second World War, he met his future wife. Eventually, later in their marriage, they moved up to Clatskanie, Oregon, and settled down to a farming life after his retirement from medicine. He and his wife had a long and happy marriage. He looked after her in her final illness at home and was greatly distressed by her death.
However, his indomitable spirit kept him going and expanding his interests. He first came to Australia, when he was eighty-nine. Dr Grayson was singularly undaunted by new experiences and challenges. He was interested in our native cultures and enjoyed his stay both socially and intellectually.
He last competed in a flight archery tournament in 2007. Last year a minor heart attack prevented him from going. Due to the advantages of mobile phone communications, he was able to talk to his friends on the salt flats at Bonneville in Utah from his hospital bed.
When I last spoke to him a month ago, we had spirited conversations about archery (thumb rings and bow pullers) and more sedate ones about medicine. He was planning to shoot again in the flight archery tournament. Though he was aware of the fragility of his body, all who knew him were impressed by the strength of his will.
Dr Grayson, who preferred to be called Bert, was a considerable philanthropist both financially and through mentoring, enjoyed life and friendship, and will be sadly missed by all who knew him. His sense of humour led him to have his wake before he died so he could enjoy the party as well. I am sure that he would have continued to publish and collect if he had survived. I know his legacy will continue to help other researchers, bow makers and archers for years to come.
Those who knew him will never forget him. I will always remember the road trips with Bert and Dave Brown, his friend, through the American West. He taught me so much about the history of the peoples who had lived there and taught me how to look at the world around me. I hope I can live my life half as well.
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Bede - we have to thank you most sincerely for such an extensive eulogy. As far as I know, news of Dr Graysons's demise has not yet reached officers of the SAA. Sadly the Arrowhead has just been posted so the news will have to wait until the next one. I will make sure that key people in the SAA are aware of the situation. Thank you once again.
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