Lucian Grove was a husband, devoted father, a businessman, a philanthropist, a politician for a time, and a visionary who saw better things for downtown Roanoke. He was, according to his daughter Anne Grove, “the best man I ever met.”
Lucian Grove passed away last week at age 88, after battling Parkinson’s disease gamely for more than a decade. Grove said her father “never complained” and remained involved with his family the whole time.
Beth Grove Sayers, another daughter of Lucian and June Grove, said her father, who spent one term on Roanoke City Council in the late ‘70’s as part of the “Roanoke Forward” ticket, believed that people should get involved in serving their communities. “He felt very strongly about giving back,” said Sayers, who was a news anchor and weather forecaster for TV stations in Roanoke, Lynchburg and Nashville before starting a family.
“I think he wanted a vibrant downtown,” said Sayers, who recalled Roanoke’s center district “being so vacant…nothing there” as a teenager. Lucian Grove, who attended Virginia Tech and worked for Appalachian Power before running his own construction business (Contracting Enterprises Inc.), helped create City Council’s “Design ’79” plan that advocated for major investments and improvements downtown. “He was very much in favor of anything…that made downtown a better place to be.”
Sayers said her father was “a wonderful man” who made his children and later his grandchildren feel like they could do anything – stressing that there were no limitations as long as they were willing to work for it. That meant sometimes, when they were watching television as children, he would declare: “You all need to get up and do something!” Sayers, married to Roanoke attorney Richard Sayers, chuckles at the memory. Setbacks were nothing to dwell on either: “He always told us to hang in there…when times get tough. He lived that way – through his illness as well.”
It’s ironic then that Sayers wound up on television; the liberal arts major had no background in broadcast journalism but her father encouraged her to apply at Channel 10 for the opening. The way Lucian Grove felt “about our ability to do [anything] and be successful,” sustained Sayers, whose initial job was as the weather forecaster.
“He always did things because he wanted to make [them] better,” said Sayers, who called her father a selfless person uninterested in the glory. “He just wanted to make Roanoke a better place – the best it could be. I was always very proud to be his daughter.”
Generous with his time, with family and community, and with causes he supported monetarily, Sayers called Lucian Grove, “One of the most loving and generous men that I have ever known. That’s what I would like people to remember. There was so much to him.”
Anne Grove, an attorney who spent much of the past few years attending to her ailing father, said Lucian Grove kept up with current events and politics the whole time. “An avid supporter of Fox News,” she laughed, adding that her father always voted for the candidate he thought was “best for the position,” regardless of party affiliation. “He voted for the person [who] would do the best things for our country and for our city.”
Dinnertime conversations were always full of “active conversation” about civic issues and politics. Grove was fiscally conservative all of his life, as a member of city council, at his business and at home, according to his daughter. “No frivolity at all with the way he ran his life. He was the type of person that we wish all of our leaders could be.”
Still, there was always room for good times, like weekends at the family’s Smith Mountain Lake house, now being enjoyed by a younger generation of the Grove family as well. Lucian Grove was a homebody who preferred the Lake to extended family trips elsewhere – he also came home from work every day for lunch.
Lucian Grove stepped away from his business in his ‘80’s only because of physical difficulties in getting around the office. He never stopped working his mind however: Anne Grove would come over to the house to find her mother and father still debating politics. “He never lost that ability [despite the illness]. He was always as sharp as he could be.”
At the memorial service and funeral home last week, Grove said visitors told her Lucian was “one of the last” giants of his era – the Greatest Generation. Most remembered him as “a wonderful man”. Former city manager Bern Ewert told June Grove that Lucian was the main reason he decided to take the job in Roanoke.
Anne Grove said her father always treated people from all walks of life with respect, no matter who they were or what they did for a living. “For that reason he was well liked,” said Grove, adding that her father had “incredible integrity and honesty” in the way he went through life. Follow your dreams. he told his children; “Just go do it,” was his advice. Lucian Grove took his own advice to heart, earning a pilot’s license in middle age.
Anne Grove wouldn’t trade her caretaking chores of the past few years “for the world,” when Lucian Grove continued to teach her things throughout that difficult period. She sums up her father with one simple thought: “He was the best man I ever met. It’s hard to meet someone who has such high standards. He was just unbelievable.”
(Publisher’s Note: Son Lucian Grove Jr., a physician, could not be reached for this story.)
By Gene Marrano