James Henry Ball de Gruchy

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James Henry Ball de Gruchy, Ph.D., M.Sc.



Scientist and Environmentalist. He helped develop the B-29 bomber during the Second World War and devoted post-war years to the environment


                               JAMES HENRY BALL de GRUCHY
                           Military and Environmental Scientist  
                                      (1900-1987)

He was born in the United States of America to a Jersey-born father, James Gwyer de Gruchy, of Kiowa, Kansas, a Nurseryman and Farmer, and Mary Ball, his wife, whom he had married in St Helier in 1897, before emigrating. James de Gruchy, who was born three years later, went from school to university, gaining his Bachelor`s and Master`s degree in Science and going on to a doctorate in Physics. In WW11, he formed a part of the Air Corps` research team, engaged in perfecting the design of the B-29 bomber that was used to carry the atomic bomb to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

After marrying, Dr de Gruchy and his family lived in several different States within their country before serving it abroad, in a posting to Japan, advising how best to restore, post WW11, that nation`s decimated fisheries. Finally, he returned to the U.S.A. and became a lecturer at the University of Oklahoma in Ecology and the Environment. In his retirement, back in Kiowa, he ran his inherited farm organically, still lecturing and writing on the subject that had so defined his career.

In the absence, as yet, of a biography, the following interview by journalist Steve Patterson, published in a regional Kansas newspaper, gives some insight into de Gruchy`s career and character:

"He may not save this world from self-destruction but Dr James H. B. de Gruchy will live a full life trying. Already 77 years along and a naturalist by the purest sense of the word, this student of life spends virtually every waking hour probing survival`s many secrets. Having moved back to his father`s homestead one and a half miles west of Kiowa in 1964, it would take a careless cropduster five years to launch the versatile de Gruchy on a campaign against cancer and poison. “I`m concerned that so many people consume poison everyday without even realizing it”, he said. “I`m concerned about people all over the world. We`ve got to stop it.” Clad in overalls, wire-rimmed glasses resting on a prominent nose and his face in the constant shadow of a straw hat, the slightly built de Gruchy (pronounced Grooshee) and wife Lillian are the constant caretakers of a “home garden” that includes some 35 varieties of fruits and vegetables. They annually harvest anything from watermelons to wheat to asparagus and even some egg plant, “though I don`t care a bit for it.” The couple has invited anyone wishing to see, out to their place Sunday from 2pm until sundown. “I hope we can convince everyone who comes out that gardens can be grown so easily without poisons”, Dr de Gruchy said. The de Gruchys grow enough to keep both, themselves, their two children and five grandchildren fully supplied with the naturally grown food the year around. Something of a jack-of-all-sciences, de Gruchy`s past could easily fill the pages of a thick book. He`s fought off two heart attacks and a scrape with skin cancer and maintains that only his efforts to keep physically fit permit him to walk this invaluable earth today. “It`s all proper nourishment and exercise,” he says. “You`ve got to keep this old tapper tapping.” Good blood circulation also keeps the mind sharp, the doctor said. “I surprise myself at how much I can remember,” he said. Dr de Gruchy recalls helping his father build the house he now calls his home, back in 1913. I can remember handling a team of four horses pulling a wagon up that hill, “ he said, pointing to one of the many picturesque mounts surrounding the Kiowa area. “We`d have to lock the back wheels in place coming down.” But unlike most of his peers, de Gruchy doesn`t have much time to reflect on the past...he has too much to accomplish now. “I`m planning to give a lecture soon on ways to retard cancer,” he said. “You wouldn`t believe what the scientific community is discovering about the effects of vitamins on cancerous growth.” When the doctor and Mrs de Gruchy returned to Kiowa in the early `60s, he carried with him a Ph.D. in zoology, specialising in ecology; a Master`s in botany and undergraduate degrees [Bachelor`s] in organic chemistry. After leaving this comfortable little farm in the Jack Fork Mountain foothills at a much younger age, de Gruchy was a part of extensive fisheries experiments at Oklahoma State University in 1939-40, had been a member of the Air Corps` research team perfecting the B-29 bomber during WW2 and then was sent to Japan following the war to help the island rebuild its fishing industry. “That was probably the most ironic phase of my life,” he said. “I helped perfect the plane that destroyed Japan then I helped rebuild what I had helped destroy.” Eventually, de Gruchy returned to teaching. “I never knew anything until I started teaching,” he says today. Following a near collapse in the classroom at a St Louis teacher`s college, he decided the time had come to retire, in 1964. “I`d always wanted to come back here,” he said. “Now I just want to leave this place in good condition for my grandchildren to enjoy.” Those plans were painfully interrupted in 1969 when that cropduster literally changed the course of life on the de Gruchy farm. “There is still evidence of that poison,” he said. He can lead any visitor to a patch of blackberries, warped and mangled, eight years after the chemical-laden plane flew over his place......”

De Gruchy married in 1923, Lillian Marie McFall (1903-1992) and had issue four children. His two sons having predeceased him, he was survived by his wife and two daughters, one of whom is still living. The other, Marilyn (1931-2017), married in 1951 Ernest Murry DeCorte, afterwards Major, U.S. Army Counter Intelligence. He and his wife are buried in Arlington Cemetery, Washington, D.C.

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