Carol Gralia, who promoted Howard County sports as writer and editor, dies at 72

Carol Gralia, a former Howard County Times sports editor and reporter recalled for her role in elevating the profile of local women’s high school and recreational sports, died of cancer Nov. 23 at a friend’s home in Ellicott City. The Columbia resident was 72.

Born in Indianapolis, Ind., she was the daughter of Merle Stafford, a tool and die maker, and his wife, Wilma Armstrong.

She earned a degree in zoology at Butler University and a master’s degree at Washington University in St. Louis.

She taught physical education at Parkville Senior High School and at a private school in St. Louis before moving permanently to Columbia in 1973.

After raising her family, she began covering recreational sports programs throughout Howard County and in Columbia, where athletic leagues and programs were proliferating. She initially reported for the Columbia Flier and The Howard County Times.

“As a community newspaper, we tried to get as many of those game reports in. Parents and coaches sent the reports, usually handwritten, and Carol typed them and sent them to typesetting,” said a newspaper colleague, Karen Brelsford, also a former sports editor of The Howard County Times and The Columbia Flier. “If a recreational athlete — child and adult — saw their names in the paper, it was most likely because Carol had typed those reports. She would spend hours doing that work.”

Ms. Gralia went on to cover traditional women’s sports — volleyball, field hockey, basketball and also lacrosse when it became a high school sport in Howard County, said her colleague.

“She understood sports well and understood the finer points of field hockey, lacrosse and volleyball because of her background in physical education,” Ms. Brelsford said. “She was so down-to-earth. She cared for people. She valued honesty and integrity and family.”

“She was the dean of girls’ sports in Howard County,” said Stan Rappaport, a former Baltimore Sun sports reporter and later a Howard County Times news editor. “She was impressively thorough and kept terrific records. She would surprise a coach by saying, ‘You just won your 100th game.’

“She cared that girls received the same amount of coverage as boys,” Mr. Rappaport said. “She was also very sensitive that it was only a game, and they were kids playing a game and … doing their best.”

“Players and coaches immediately liked her because she knew their sports,” said Ms. Brelsford. “More importantly, she was so ethical. … Everyone trusted her and felt comfortable talking with her. The impact she had on women’s sports in Howard County is undeniable. .... She was well versed and could also cover a football or baseball game.”

Sports play an important role in the lives of Columbia residents, said Ms. Brelsford. She noted that groups and events such as the Soccer Association of Columbia, the Columbia Invitational Soccer Tournament, the Howard County Striders and the Columbia Triathlon helped put Columbia on the map.

“Carol was the key person who got the word out to the community that these sports opportunities existed,” she said.

Dave Greenberg, a former coach at Mount Hebron and Centennial high schools, said of Ms. Gralia: “I trusted her and felt I could be honest with her. She was knowledgeable, trustworthy and competent. She would listen carefully to what I had to say.”

“Carol has given the girls in sports a voice in Howard County for decades,” said Ginger Kincaid, field hockey coach at Wilde Lake High School. “She has brought their accomplishment to the foreground and made sure that everyone was covered fairly, from the young swimmers in the summer to the state champions and players of the year.

“She could be seen year around on the sidelines with her notepad in hand,” Ms. Kincaid said. “She kept records of everything. The joke was always that if a coach needed to know a stat for their team or a past record they could call Carol and she would have it.”

In 2002, after a period as assistant sports editor, she became The Howard County Times’ sports editor. She retired in 2012.

Ms. Gralia won a best-in-show award from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association for an article about Rayna DuBose, the Oakland Mills graduate who contracted meningitis, went into a coma and had four limbs amputated.

She was a co-founder and member of the Howard County Women’s Athletics Hall of Fame. She was also inducted into the Howard County Community Sports Hall of Fame.

Ms. Gralia played badminton and fenced as a college student. She later did yoga and belonged to a Columbia bowling league. In the 1970s she officiated at volleyball and basketball games.

She also made numerous baby quilts which she gave to family members and friends, and also made decorative fabric wall hangings.

A celebration of her life will be held in 2018. No date date has been set.

Survivors include her husband of 49 years, Mars Gralia, a Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory systems engineer; two sons, Alex Gralia of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Reed Gralia of Marriottsville; a daughter, Megan Pulfer of Indianapolis; four sisters, Karen Wolf of Kokomo, Ind., Marian Foster of Los Angeles, and Merle Jean Illg and Jamie Scott, both of Indianapolis; and three grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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