Remembering Robert D. Gries

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We are saddened to share the loss of Robert D. Gries z"l, Federation Emeritus Truster and beloved community leader.

Bob has left a lasting imprint on so many of us. His commitment to others, and his passion for our Jewish community, for Cleveland, and for connecting the two has been transformational. Bob and Sally Gries established the Federation's Gries Family Award for Community Leadership in 1996. The Gries family created this award upon the belief that our community is strengthened by the relationships we develop with the broader community.

A fifth-generation Clevelander and Shaker Heights native whose great-great grandfather became the first Jewish settler in The Forest City in the 1830s, Bob Gries followed in his family's footsteps as a leader in the Cleveland community.

Our thoughts are with the entire Gries family during this difficult time. May his memory be for a blessing.

Please read the Cleveland Jewish News obituary, reprinted with permission. Text provided below:

Robert Dauby Gries, 94, loving and beloved husband, father, brother, grandfather, uncle; passionate philanthropist, venture capitalist pioneer, extreme adventurer, author, speaker, mentor, loyal Browns fan and devoted civic and Jewish community leader passed away peacefully on Oct. 27, 2023, in Cleveland surrounded by his loving family.

Bob will be lovingly remembered by his wife of 51 years, Sally (nee Proudfoot); children Bob, Jr. (Price), Peggy Gries Wager (Michael- deceased), Donald S. Gries (Lynn-Ann); nephew David G. Cole (Jamie) and niece Carolyn Cole; grandchildren Jacob Gries, Annie Gries, Susie Wager, Carrie Wager, Zoë Gries, Lauren Cole, Lizzy Cole; nephews Eric Arnold, Jon Arnold and niece Jane Arnold. He was predeceased by his sisters, Betty G. Dorn and Ellen G. Cole, and brother, Thomas H. Gries.

Bob was born on May 15, 1929, in Cleveland. The cherished son of Lucile D. and Robert H. Gries, and grandson of Frances and Rabbi Moses Gries, and Bessie and Nathan Dauby. He was a fifth-generation descendant of Cleveland’s first Jewish settler, Simson Thorman, who settled in Cleveland in 1837. He continued the family legacy of philanthropy and civic duty by serving on over 40 non-profit boards including the Cleveland Foundation, University Hospitals, The Diversity Center, Ideastream Public Media, Vocational Guidance Services, LAND Studio, John Carroll University, the Cleveland Playhouse, the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, the Maltz Museum and the national board of the American Jewish Committee. He was the treasurer of Mayor Carl Stokes first mayoral campaign. Always a passionate advocate of equity in education, in 2000 he was co-chair of the successful Cleveland Municipal School District’s $300 million bond issue campaign to upgrade school facilities.

Bob and Sally established the Gries Family Award at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland to honor Jewish leaders who have demonstrated high impact leadership in both the Jewish and general communities.

His lifetime dedication to diversity, equity, inclusion and the betterment of Clevelanders was recognized by the Diversity Center of Northeast Ohio in 2001 when Bob received their Humanitarian Award and in 2019 when he was a recipient of the Cleveland Heritage Award.

Bob always said that his heroes were people with disabilities who overcame enormous challenges every day to lead successful lives. His life’s mission was centered on giving back to others less fortunate and was anchored on the philosopher Hillel’s wisdom, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And, if not now, when?”

Bob, along with his family, were original investors in the Cleveland Browns and their predecessor, the Cleveland Rams. He was a significant minority owner and board member of the Cleveland Browns until Art Modell surprised him with the announced move to Baltimore. Bob believed the Browns were an important Cleveland asset and was strongly opposed to the move, so he sold out the family interest in 1996 in opposition to the move, ending a 50-year involvement with the NFL. He remained an ardent Browns fan throughout his life.

Bob began his career at The May Company, becoming the manager of the first suburban department store in downtown Cleveland. A pioneer in the venture capital field, he founded the first Small Business Investment Company, or SBIC, in 1964 in Cleveland, the Gries Investment Company, which he led for over 30 years. As if high risk investing wasn’t enough of a challenge, he started running at age 50, enabled by newly invented inhalers for asthmatics and Motrin to manage back pain. He went from running 10ks to endurance races of 100 or more miles over mountains and deserts, biking events that were 1,000 miles long and climbing mountains that exceeded 20,000 feet. At age 65, he was the oldest person to summit the tallest mountains in both the Arctic and Antarctica. In his nineties, he cut back his workouts to only two hours a day.

Bob lived life to the fullest. He wrote a book called “Aging with Attitude,” which highlighted some of his 100-plus adventures and the importance of a daily workout regimen. After reading this book, people told him they were inspired while others said they had to take a nap! He wrote another book called “Five Generations,” which recounted stories of his family’s love and dedication to Cleveland over five generations. His was a life well-lived and, most of all, he treasured his family and friends.

Bob was a graduate of Hawken School in Lyndhurst, Taft School in Watertown, Conn., and Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

Bob’s family deeply appreciates and gives heartfelt thanks to his doctors, nurses, caregivers and the Hospice of the Western Reserve in Fairview Park for their compassionate care.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donating to Hawken School, Vocational Guidance Services, University Hospitals of Cleveland, the Cleveland Foundation, American Jewish Committee/Cleveland Chapter or a charity of your choice.

There will be a celebration of his life at 3 p.m. on Nov. 6 at the Maltz Performing Arts Center at 1855 Ansel Rd. in Cleveland.

Friends who are unable to attend the service may view it by joining livestream: bit.ly/495t5lk.

Interment will be private.

Family requests no visitation at the residence.

Arrangements under the direction of Berkowitz-Kumin-Bookatz Memorial Chapel.

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