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Eric K. Gratz, a marriage and family therapist at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, dies

Eric K. Gratz always dressed formally in a coat and tie.
Eric K. Gratz always dressed formally in a coat and tie. (Handout / HANDOUT)

Eric K. Gratz, a marriage and family therapist who was director of admissions and chief social worker in the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital’s Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, died Feb. 20 of congestive heart failure at the Edenwald Retirement Community in Towson. The former Mount Washington resident was 87.

“I knew Eric both at Edenwald and as a former patient,” said Debra Furchgott. “He was very gentle and a nonconfrontational person, and his office manner was his everyday manner. When you were dealing with Eric, you were dealing with a very nice person who had very high standards, and he met them.”

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Eric Kay Gratz, son of Oliver Gratz, an educator and principal, and his wife, Mary Gratz, a schoolteacher, was born and raised in Celina, Ohio, where he graduated from high school.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in 1956 in sociology from Ohio State University and a master’s degree three years later from Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. In 1963 he obtained a graduate certificate in marriage counseling from the University of Pennsylvania and a master’s degree in clinical social work followed in 1966 from Washington’s Howard University.

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Mr. Gratz’s professional career spanned 1956 to 2019, when he retired. During the first seven years, he worked as an ordained United Methodist Church minister.

“He never used the title reverend,” said his wife of 53 years, the former Jacqueline Long, an educator who retired in 2017 from Towson University, where she was director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

From 1963 to 1969, Mr. Gratz was a marriage counselor at Maryland Children’s Aid and Family Services, and from 1969 to 1981 director of admissions and chief social worker in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Sheppard-Pratt in Towson.

After leaving Sheppard-Pratt in 1981, he established a full-time private practice in individual and marital psychotherapy. In conjunction with his own work, he taught part time in the Towson University Department of Psychology.

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He also lectured widely on the subject of marital conflict and the therapeutic process of couples treatment. In 1999, he became a charter member of the Auburn Society, the Learning in Retirement program at the university. He regularly presented a film series each semester, focusing on the psychological aspects of the characters and the film story, “believing that films can be both educationally and therapeutically beneficial,” Mr. Gratz wrote in an autobiographical profile.

Mr. Gratz, a serious movie buff, enjoyed films of all genres, his favorite being “Harvey,” the 1950 film starring Jimmy Stewart, who with Johnny Depp was among his favorite actors.

“He conducted a film series for Osher, and that was simply fabulous,” said Ms. Furchgott, who also lives in Edenwald. “It just wasn’t about going to see the movie — it was the work that came afterward. They were always very thought-provoking films, and the work was about what we had just seen. Eric made us think a lot about the characters and he was very good at it.”

He was also a fan of Ian Fleming’s books and the character of 007.

Mr. Gratz was an immaculate dresser who always wore a coat and tie.

“Eric was the total gentleman, and he dressed like a gentleman with his suits and ties, unlike most people these days who dress like they came out of the rag bin,” Ms. Furchgott said. “He dressed like he was always ready for business.”

Mr. Gratz eschewed traditional haberdashery establishments.

“Eric didn’t go to Brooks Brothers and didn’t want any of that expensive stuff,“ Ms. Gratz said. “He bought his coats at secondhand stores, his shirts from Sam’s Club, and his ties from the Junior League’s Wise Penny, which is next door to the Senator Theatre. He’d drop in there before or after a movie. He just knew how to put it all together.”

Mr. Gratz had wide-ranging musical tastes and savored good wine and food, family members said, and enjoyed going to restaurants.

While living in Mount Washington, he and his wife enjoyed working in their garden and enjoying al fresco dinners on their front porch, which overlooked their garden, where they also enjoyed hosting parties for family and friends.

Favorite vacation destinations were Mount Desert Island in Maine, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Cape May Point, New Jersey.

In his autobiographical notes, Mr. Gratz said that philosophically he considered himself a “scientific, existential, secular humanist.”

Plans for a memorial service to be held at a later date are incomplete.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Gratz is survived by a son, Douglas Gratz of Columbia; a granddaughter; and a great-granddaughter.

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