Cover photo for Robert Archibald Grace's Obituary
Robert Archibald Grace Profile Photo
1938 Robert 2022

Robert Archibald Grace

January 1, 1938 — September 5, 2022

Professor Robert "Bob" A. Grace passed away surrounded by his loving family on September 5, 2022, three weeks after his 40th wedding anniversary with his steadfast wife Mary Ellen Nordyke-Grace. A respected professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Hawaii (UH) at Manoa for 47 years and a devoted family man with five children and four grandchildren, Bob showed grace and grit until the end. Despite a brave, long battle with a type of Parkinsonism, he never lost his unparalleled commitment to family, love of education and travel, joyful wit, and deep, caring heart. His family will always remember his devoted, daily presence in their lives; his love of simplicity (often spotted walking barefoot to and from UH); his academic rigor, with focus on real-world problems; his attention to caring for others equally; and his clarity regarding the most important things in life.

Dr. Grace was born in London, Ontario, Canada to Dr. Archibald John Grace and Mary Disney Grace. As the eldest of eight children, Bob excelled as an athlete and scholar, attending Ridley College boarding school. He played quarterback at the University of Western Ontario and graduated with a Bachelor's in Civil Engineering. He then attended M.I.T. and graduated with his Master's and Ph.D. (Hydrodynamics and Water Resources) in 1966.

At UH, Professor Grace taught two generations of students in classes such as Statics, Dynamics, Applied Probability and Statistics, and Fluid Mechanics, and a graduate course on Marine Disposal of Wastewaters. He helped to develop the ocean engineering program in the College of Engineering and wrote two engineering textbooks on the subject of marine outfalls. Professor Grace was known internationally for his expertise in marine outfall systems, and completed almost 3,000 professional dives at his offshore research sites. In 2014, Bob learned that he had a terminal disease, Multiple System Atrophy (MSA). He quietly stepped away from his life's work, his students, and his beloved office with a view of Diamond Head. Bob had a wonderful sense of humor, a deep appreciation of life's little joys, a boundless love for his family, a passion for the ocean and slack key guitar music, and the courage to fight MSA for eight years despite its many hardships.

Bob is survived by his wife of 40 years, Mary Ellen Nordyke-Grace; five children: Dr. Aimee Grace (Joe Weismantel), Dr. Nalani Grace (Marc Birnkammer), Cameron Grace (Liz Grace), Dr. Trevor Grace (Dr. Jocelyn Ko), and Noelle Grace (Daniel Powell); four grandchildren (Malia Weismantel, Gabriel Birnkammer, Riley Grace, Oliver Grace, and one on the way), and six siblings in Canada (Dr. D. Michael Grace, Dr. A.E. Noelle Grace, Dr. Archie Grace, Mary Finley, Gillian Graham, and Justice A. Duncan Grace). He was predeceased by brother Dr. John R. Grace and his parents. If we were ever fortunate in life, it was to know and to love Robert A. Grace.

Please join us at a memorial service to honor his life on Sunday, January 1, 2023 at 3:30 p.m.
at Central Union Church (1660 Beretania Street, Honolulu, HI 96826).
Donations in his memory may be given to the UH Foundation Professor Robert Grace
Endowment for Civil and Environmental Engineering (online at or via mail to UH Foundation, % Terrri Alvaro, Director of Donor Relations, 1314 South King Street, Suite B, Honolulu, Hawaii 96814); or to the YMCA of Honolulu, designated to Camp Erdman
(online at or via mail to Kerri Van Duyne,
YMCA of Honolulu, 1441 Pali Highway, Honolulu, HI 96813).

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Robert Archibald Grace, please visit our flower store.


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