Charles J. Gross, Jr. 1931 – 2019


Reading at Bryant Hall, University of Mississippi 2018  Photo Credit:  Gaetano Catelli

Dr. Charles J. Gross, Jr. moved to the realm of the ancients while peacefully resting at his home in Oxford, Mississippi on July 24, 2019. He was born and raised in Medford, Massachusetts and would have been 88 on August 13th. Student. Teacher. Colleague. Friend. Kindling and fostering these relationships with others were simultaneously his life’s work and greatest joy.

Charles’ early years were not fruitful academically and he found himself catching up on book reports instead of enjoying the languid summer days, or meeting in the dean’s office at Tufts College where he was an undergraduate to discuss lackluster freshman grades. When he was able to ditch biology and mathematics and study only foreign languages (French, Spanish, Latin, Greek), school had a new meaning for him. Many times in his teaching years he would inspire struggling students with his own story of failure. Charles went on to earn his PhD. in Classics from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1960. He taught in numerous high schools and colleges, including the Berkshire School and the University of Mississippi, during his 50+ years in the classroom.

Charles lived a self-directed, simple life, acquiring few possessions but many friends. Even books purchased for classes were given away to anyone who wanted them. Other than teaching or taking a class (and he audited at least one per semester at Ole Miss over nearly two decades), a meal with friends or a trip to the movies were some of his favorite pastimes. Charles would often check the dessert menu first before deciding “how big” a main course he would order. Once, he ordered a brownie sundae while everyone else ordered their entrées, accompanied with cackle and a grin directed towards the five-year-old at the table! When it came to movies, Charles could tell you all of the titles and actors from the late 1930s to the present day. Charles was also a college basketball fan, however, he enjoyed watching the coaches more than the players. Must have been the teacher in him. In his youth, Charles was an avid golfer and not only played but also caddied, coached and enjoyed watching professional golf on TV. At one point, Charles built a putting green in his parents’ backyard, which was not appreciated.

Each Sunday, Charles faithfully attended Catholic Mass. Going to church with him was fun because you knew three things would happen. First, he would peruse the readings at the start, and offer a bit of humorous commentary or a chuckle on the side. During the service, he would pull out his pocket-watch, a gift from a student, at the beginning and again at the end of the homily. A raised eyebrow meant it went on far too long. Finally, he did not mind exiting immediately after communion, en route to an eating establishment.

Because Charles felt that he learned so much in his life, especially when he was teaching, he wanted to capture it in a memoir. You can get a free download of “A Thousand Laughs (A Teacher’s Story)” which includes many more details than this format affords by emailing  Ars longa brevis vita.

Charles was preceded in death by his parents, Charles J. Gross, Sr. and Doris Beatrice Mara Gross, and by his brother Richard Gross. He is survived by his sister, Paula Gross Gray of Sun Lakes, Arizona, and by several nieces and nephews. Arrangements for a memorial mass and modest reception in Oxford are in the works for a later date. Please contact Coleman Funeral Home for information.

We invite you to contribute in Charles’ name to The Berkshire School in Sheffield, Massachusetts.


Virge & Charles 2016 Photo Credit:  Paula Gray



Typical Dinner @ our house.  2018


Valentine’s Party 2019

28 thoughts on “Charles J. Gross, Jr. 1931 – 2019

  1. Dear fellow friends and family of Charles Gross,

    These quotations join many in the BIBLE in comforting me about Charles’s passing. With you, I celebrate his life.

    “What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly.”
    Richard Bach

    “The world is not conclusion
    A Sequel stands beyond
    Invisible as Music
    But positive as sound”
    Emily Dickinson

    “Loyal hearts can change the face of sorrow,
    Softly encircle it with love’s most gentle,
    Unearthly radiance.”
    Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    “Every blade in the grass
    Every leaf in the forest
    Lays down its life
    In its season,
    As beautifully as
    It was taken up.”
    Henry David Thoreau

    “Death ends a life, not a relationship.
    The dead sit at our tables long after they are gone.
    When a lost loved one appears before you, it is your brain that fights it, not your heart.”
    Robert Anderson

    “If I can stop one heart from breaking,
    I shall not live in vain;
    If I can ease one life the aching,
    Or cool one pain, Or help one fainting robin
    Unto his nest again,
    I shall not live in vain.”
    Emily Dickinson

    “I’m not going home to die.
    I’m going home like a shooting star.”
    Sojourner Truth

    “To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.”
    Oscar Wilde

    “I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”
    Sarah Williams

    “Life is eternal; and love is immortal; and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.”

    Rossiter Worthington Raymond, 1840-1918

  2. I am so sorry to hear this news, and I’m thinking about all Charles’s family and friends. I genuinely enjoyed getting to know Charles as we worked on his memoir essay, and I’m glad to know it can be shared widely. Your tribute is perfectly lovely. Take care.

  3. Dear Virge and Brian, thank you for inspiring Charles to move to Oxford, where you and the children were such a welcoming family. He was a good friend to all of us–on campus, at St John’s, and at many a restaurant and ice cream counter.

  4. Mr. Charles was one of my most favorite people and I loved him very much! He always kept me in my toes and everyone else for that matter. 😃 losing Charles was like losing a family member for me. I am so proud that I was able to be apart of his life this last year and I will always remember that smile and that cackle he made🥰

  5. Doc will always be remembered fondly by me and surely all students who lived in Allen House at Berkshire School in the late ’70s-early ’80s. He knew the dubious rule-breaking we were up to on any given day, but he also understood that we were young men in the midst of growing up. He would give us short lectures, roll his eyes, laugh at our stupidity, and counsel us to get our acts together. But, he never sought to break us or run us up the proverbial flagpole. He had faith in us. Doc was a wise man, a brilliant man, and a great mentor. He will be greatly missed.

  6. Agetis genus animae. Numquam obliviscar postmodum heroicam naturam Stanz Virgilius: «De hominis et arma virumque cano ‘communicat operibus illius malignis, et benedicite Deum,

    David Rondeau ’78
    Berkshire School

  7. Dr. Gross was a wonderful teacher!! I learned so much from him at Berkshire and still use it today. I took a class from him called “Etymology” . I loved it. One of my best classes at Berkshire, and it really was helpful when studying English in College. So sorry to hear of his passing. He was so unique!

    Lisa Wardell ’79

  8. Wisdom, warmth and sincerity are just a few of the fond memories I have of Dr. Gross. We both were born in Medford, MA and shared a divine love of New England. I remember his first year at Allen house and the relaxed and tolerant guidance he gave to many. May his spirit resound across the hills and valley of our beloved Berkshire and beyond. Requiescat in Pace.

    Julien Miville ’78

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