Grace Virginia Alley Walsh
September 17,1933 February 28, 2009
TEACHER CALLED A HERO IN NEW YORK TIMES
A July 5, 1993 New York Times article entitled “High School Lasts Longer
than 4 Years for Many Students” covered disadvantaged students from New York City’s West Side struggling to obtain
a diploma. One student in particular took six years to graduate. When he picked up his
diploma, he thanked his favorite teacher Ms. Walsh for her help. “She
stuck by me,” he said. “She inspired me to read more. She’s my hero.”
Grace Virginia Alley Walsh, born September 17, 1933, died February 28, 2009.
The first child of former Burlington, NC, Mayor John H. Alley and wife Grace, she touched the lives of thousands of
students in her lifelong career as an educator. She retired in 2008 after teaching the last 43 years in
the New York City school system, with a perfect attendance record.
Grace graduated in the top of her class from Burlington High School, Burlington, NC,
in 1951. In 1955, she obtained a B.A. in Chemistry from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
She received her Degree of Master of Arts in 1971 from Columbia University, New York.
She believed in education, believed in reading, and had an incredible memory, rattling
off facts and figures, birthdays and babies, telephone numbers and every relative in the family tree.
She was passionate about international travel, each year visiting far realms,
from China when it first opened to tourists, to the wilds of Africa. She loved going to Europe, whether
repeating visits to major capitals, friends in East Germany, or a classmate near London. Family and friends
could expect her annual postcards listing all the sights she had just seen, and students could expect the barrage of brochures
she would bring back to them.
Grace was a lifelong fan of the theatre and opera. As a child
she listened avidly to opera every Saturday afternoon on radio. In New York she worked part time as an
usher in Broadway and off-Broadway theatres in her quest to see every show. Her passion for exotic foods
led her to join the New York epicurean group, The Gluttons.
“Amazing Grace,” as she was affectionately called by friends and family,
was a true American original who always took the road “less traveled by,” in life as well as in personal style
which was often of her own creation. As much as she enjoyed globetrotting, she loved visiting family more,
making an annual circuit of visits to far-flung relatives. In turn her family came from far and wide to
attend her 75th birthday celebration this past September.
She is survived by her husband Victor Clement Walsh, sister Barbara Alley Simon, and
a bevy of relatives in Alamance County and throughout the South.
Visitation will be at Lowe Funeral Home, 2205 South Church Street, Burlington
on Wednesday evening, March 4th, from 6:00 until 8:00. Services will be at 2:00pm Thursday at
Lowe, followed by a service and interment at Pinehill Cemetery.
(Obituary written by Barbara Alley Simon)