Spencer Y. Grey

Longtime Chatham resident Spencer Y. Grey died on April 24, 2021 following several weeks of declining health, not quite one month after his 94th birthday.  Spencer was born in Boston on 27 March 1927 to Percy A. Grey and Mary Lou Cressy Grey, and grew up in Beverly with an older brother, Robert. Since the early 1900s his mother’s family had spent summers in Chatham, where they owned one of the oldest houses on Stage Harbor, opposite Hardings Beach.  The family moved to Chatham year-round in the 1940s to start a general store on Bridge Street that soon became a clothing store, The Sail Loft, named for the sailmaking operation of the building’s former occupant, Charlie Howes. During his later teens Spencer went away to school at Avon Old Farms in Connecticut and Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, MI, returning to Chatham to work various summer jobs, including waiting tables at the Wayside Inn.  After graduating from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy he worked for the United States Lines on trips that took him several times around the world.
Spencer graduated from Dartmouth College in 1951 and taught briefly at St. Paul’s School (Concord, N.H.) before enlisting in the U.S. Navy, where he served as Lieutenant and Communications Officer during the Korean War.  After his time in the Navy Spencer married Ann Foote, of Little Compton RI, in 1954. Spencer and Ann lived briefly in New York City while he earned a Masters degree in English at Columbia University. In 1956 he taught at Tabor Academy in Marion, MA, before taking a job teaching English at Loomis School in Windsor, Conn.  He continued to teach at Loomis (later Loomis-Chaffee), serving as chairman of the English department as well as drama director, until 1975.  
In the summer of 1975 Spencer and Ann moved back to Chatham with the youngest of their three children, Julia, to take over his parents’ store, which he and Ann had helped to run during the summer months for many years, as well as serving as clothes buyers.  They continued to run The Sail Loft for another 20 years, during which time they opened additional branches in Cotuit and Duxbury (and, briefly, Annapolis, MD).  In later years, the Sail Loft empire shrank back to the original store on Bridge Street. The remaining original store closed its doors in 1996, after which the building was sold and converted into a family home.  
Following two decades teaching in prep schools and another two decades in the retail clothing business, Spencer became an avid chronicler of Chatham and Cape Cod history.  He served as president of the Chatham Historical Society for eight years and as chairman for another three.  During this time he was involved with the renovation and considerable expansion of the Society’s premises in the historic Captain Joseph Atwood House. (The Spencer Y. Grey Maritime Gallery in the Atwood House & Museum was named for him.)  Between 2000 and 2012 he collaborated on three book collections sponsored by the Historical Society chronicling and illustrating the history of Chatham. In 2014 Spencer initiated a column in the Cape Cod Chronicle (“At the Atwood House”) featuring stories from 300 years of Cape Cod history.  His contributions, along with those of his colleagues and successors, can be found here:  https://chathamhistoricalsociety.org/virtual-experience/cape-cod-chronicle-articles/  
In 2017 Chatham recognized Spencer’s lifelong connection to the town by appointing him Grand Marshal of the annual 4th of July parade.
Spencer Grey is survived by his wife, Ann Foote Grey, their children Nicholas Woodbury Grey (of Marion, MA), Thomas Spencer Grey (of Berkeley, CA), Julia Ann Grey Humphrey (of Story City, IA), four grandsons and one granddaughter.