Leroy Trice “Roy” Gravatte III, 84, passed peacefully at home in Bethany Beach, Del., on Feb. 15, 2021. He was born in Washington, D.C., on July 23, 1936.
Having grown up in Alexandria, Va., he attended G.W. High School and rowed for the G.W. national championship crew team. From an early age, he spent the summers in Bethany Beach at his family’s vacation home and was a lifeguard for the Bethany Beach Patrol.
After graduating in 1960 from Virginia Tech with a degree in civil engineering, Gravatte served for a time in the U.S. Naval Reserve, then worked at the GSA until creating his own engineering firm, Professional Engineers. Later in his career, his engineering focus shifted to expert witness work in the elevator and escalator industry, until his retirement in his late 1970s. He was also a licensed real estate broker, where he invested in real estate in the D.C. and Bethany Beach areas.
In 1974, Gravatte purchased the Addy Sea, a historic oceanfront bed-and-breakfast in Bethany Beach, from the Addy family, founding members of Bethany since 1901. The Addy Sea was his true passion and a symbol of the Gravatte family legacy in Bethany Beach. Through his vision and restoration, it has become a premier destination on the Delaware coast. It is still being operated by his family.
While in college, Gravatte married his high school sweetheart, Gail Fitzpatrick, and together they raised three children in their family home in Springfield, Va. Gravatte was a spirited, enthusiastic Virginia Tech Hokie, endlessly proud of his alma mater. He loved to fly his Hokie flag and dress in his Hokie apparel. He never missed a Virginia Tech football game and was a season passholder until 2019.
He was also a dedicated Rotarian. His home base was the Rotary Club of Alexandria, where he volunteered as Santa on King Street each Christmas. He also attended the Rotary Club of Southern Sussex (Del.), maintaining his 100 percent attendance, and hosted the eagerly-anticipated Christmas breakfast each year at the Addy Sea. Gravatte was also a civic leader, appointed as president of Orange Hunt Civic Association and elected to the Bethany Beach Town Council. He was also a member of the Masons, as was his father.
Time on the beach, socializing with friends, an annual birthday party, rounds of golf, dips in the ocean and spending winter months in Florida with his girlfriend of 24 years, Sue Cooley, were his other favorite pastimes. His exuberant love of the Lord was enhanced by attending Ocean View Church of Christ, the Beach Fellowship in Bethany Beach and the McGregor Baptist Church in Ft. Myers, Fla. He never met a stranger who didn’t become a friend. If asked, “How are you?” his response was always, “Better than I deserve.”
Gravatte was preceded in death by his parents, Frances Miller Gravatte and Leroy Trice Gravatte II; and his sister Martha Lu Gravatte. He is survived by his brother, Charles and his wife, Frances; his children and their spouses, Trice and Laurel Gravatte, Gini and Neal Bepko, and Jeff and Sherene Gravatte; his grandchildren, Jessica (and Ian Loch), Tyler, Meredith, Adam (and Allison), Laura, Addy, Jamie and Sarah; and his two great-grandchildren, Rowan and Carter Loch.
The family and friends of Leroy T. Gravatte III will hold a celebration of his life on the occasion of his 85th birthday, July 23, 2021, at 5 p.m. on the beach in front of the Addy Sea at Ocean View Parkway in Bethany Beach. The event is BYOB, and those attending should also bring chairs and a snack to share. The Gravatte family and the Addy Sea will provide dessert in honor of Leroy’s sweet tooth.