Kenneth Allen Grace, 70, of Needham, died June 2, 2022, at home, surrounded by his loving family.
Ken was born in Athol, Massachusetts, October 15, 1951, the son of Bob and Dottie Grace. The youngest of four brothers, Ken grew up in Athol and excelled in school and athletics, eventually becoming an Eagle Scout and 3-sport captain at Athol High School. He went on to play football at Cornell for several years before shifting focus to the passion of his later life, labor relations and worker representation.
Ken attended Cornell University’s School for Industrial and Labor Relations, graduating with a BS in 1973 followed by a Master’s in Labor Studies at UMass/Amherst in 1975. While in graduate school, he became a union organizer and later a business agent for AFSCME Council 93, negotiating and servicing over 50 contracts. In 1977, he continued his education at the New England School of Law night division and graduated magna cum laude in 1981 as a member of the NESL Law Review. In Ken’s words, “I do law for labor, not labor for law.”
Ken and Joe Sandulli formed the partnership of Sandulli Grace in 1985 and helped grow the firm into the family of twelve attorneys it is today. Before retiring in 2022, Ken spent 40 years successfully negotiating hundreds of collective bargaining agreements and mediating countless grievances to fair resolutions for police, firefighter, EMS, and teachers unions; among others. While he litigated numerous victories in arbitration, unfair labor practice proceedings and court, he felt that the outcome is often better when you reach an acceptable agreement rather than have something potentially less acceptable imposed by a third party.
In addition to his work for Sandulli Grace, for over 30 years Ken taught hundreds of labor union members at the Boston Labor Guild’s School of Labor-Management Relations. He established the Massachusetts Coalition of Police annual scholarship program and pushed for increased mental health and other support services. In recognition of his work, Ken was the recipient of the 2012 Cushing-Gavin Labor Attorney Award for excellence in labor-management relations.
In 1978, Ken met Peggy Busund at a blind date dinner party. They hit it off immediately and began seeing each other every day. At seven weeks, he wrote a mock proposal scroll listing all the things they could do together in the future. The real marriage proposal happened shortly after, 5 months after they met, on Valentine’s Day. Peggy and Ken were married in 1979 and spent 41 wonderful years together, living first in Newton and then later in Needham for the past 33 years, raising their two sons. Ken lost Peggy to cancer in 2020 and shortly after started to do “acts of love” to connect in meaningful ways with family and friends. In Ken’s words, “every act of love I take has helped me grow and continue to do so. That is due to Peggy and what we had together. If someone loses another they love so much, I am convinced that ‘doing something with the love’ is the key to living life without that person.”
Ken enjoyed traveling almost as much as he enjoyed planning the trips. As a firm believer in the Book of Rick Steves, family trips both nationally and abroad featured many unique adventures, historical sites, museums, off the path restaurants, places of natural beauty, and ultimately lifelong memories for his family.
Ken loved to bake, a skill he learned from his mother. Desserts, cakes and cookies were continually enjoyed by friends and family - his carrot cake could not be beat.
He was an incredibly loving father and was heavily involved in all aspects of his sons’ lives, from coaching their soccer and basketball teams to providing guidance and support at every stage of life. He will be tremendously missed.
He was preceded in death by his wife of 41 years, Peggy Grace, his brother John Grace and his sister-in-law Dede Grace; he leaves his two sons; Michael Grace and fiancé Tiffany Robicheau of Dorchester, Matthew and his wife Katie Grace of Natick, and his grand-pug Olive; two brothers and three sisters-in-law; Steve and Pam Grace of MI, Don and Catherine Grace of MA, and Joan Raducha of WI; as well as many other loving nieces, nephews, family members and friends.
A Celebration of Life, Memorial Service, and reception will be held on Saturday, August 6, 2022, at 10:30am, at the Congregational Church of Needham, 1154 Great Plain Ave., Needham, MA 02492. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to: The Labor Guild, 66 Brooks Drive, Braintree MA 02184. To make a gift online, please visit https://laborguild.com/.