Obituary of Ronald Gratz
Dr. Ronald K. Gratz, Professor Emeritus, Biological Sciences
Ronald Karl Gratz, 70, a resident of South Range, Michigan passed away at his home on Tuesday, April 11, 2017, following a lengthy illness.
He was born on June 1, 1946 in Northfield, New Jersey to the late Bruno and Anna (Schaub) Gratz. Raised in Absecon, New Jersey, he graduated from St. Augustine Preparatory School in Richland in 1960 and attended The University of Notre Dame, where he graduated in 1964 with a B.S. in Biology. He then joined the newly-established U.S. Peace Corps and served in some of the remotest locations in the Philippines for several years. He returned to Notre Dame and received his Master’s Degree in Biology. Ron continued his education at The University of Oklahoma, graduating in 1976 with a PhD in Zoology. That same year, he started working at The Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine in Goettingen, Germany, where he conducted post doctorate research in avian and reptilian respiratory physiology.
In 1978, Ron joined the faculty at Michigan Technological University as a Professor and taught in the Biology Department for 33 years. He was the Director of the Department's pre-health professions programs and established The Peace Corps’ Master’s International Program in Biology before his retirement. While at MTU, he concentrated his research efforts around respiratory physiology, specifically the control of breathing in snakes and other species.
Ron was a member of Holy Family Catholic Church in South Range and was also active with the Community Arts Center. One of Ron’s true passions was volunteering for the Copper Country Habitat for Humanity, where he donated his time, talent and treasure since its inception for 23 years. Ron began with CCHFH as part of the Fundraising Committee and served on the Board for eleven years, five as Board President. Ron regularly gave presentations to civic groups, student groups, and TV and radio stations to help inform people of Habitat’s philosophy and the different projects HFH was working on. Most recently, Ron served on the Building Committee and as the group’s photographer. Ron’s dedication made it possible for Habitat to build or renovate 29 homes in Houghton, Baraga and Keweenaw counties. In 2014 Ron was Copper Country Habitat’s nomination for Michigan Volunteer of the Year for his tireless efforts working with families who received Habitat’s assistance and countless hours spent constructing Habitat houses.
Besides volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, Ron enjoyed hiking, a habit he started early as a youth in Absecon, where he regularly explored salt marshes and forests near his home. This love of and fascination with nature led him to his career as a biologist, as well as his life-long passion for photography. Trained in both the technical and aesthetic aspects of photography by various noted photographers, his particular photographic interests included national parks (Badlands, South Dakota and national parks in New Mexico were among his favorite places to visit for natural beauty), waterfalls, abandoned buildings and industrial ruins, such as the mining ruins of the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Ron was instrumental in documenting the Gratz Family Tree (Stammbaum) and had it printed for his extended family in the United States and Germany. He was also a loyal supporter of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team, in good times and bad.
Besides his parents, Ron was preceded in death by his brother, Eugene. Surviving Ron are his many cousins in the United States and Germany.
A Mass of Christian Burial for Ron will be held on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 11:00 am at Holy Family Catholic Church in South Range, where visitation will begin at 10 am. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to Copper Country Habitat for Humanity.
A graveside service for Ron will be held at a later date at Holy Cross Cemetery in Mays Landing, New Jersey. To view Ron’s obituary or to send condolences to the family, please visit www.plowefuneralhome.com
The Memorial Chapel & Plowe Funeral Home of Houghton is assisting the family with the arrangements.
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