Sheila L. Grader

15 April , 19387 April , 2019

Sheila L. Grader, Ph.D., age 80, died on Sunday, April 7, 2019, in Marblehead, Massachusetts, as a result of a heart attack.

Sheila was born and raised in Stafford, United Kingdom, the daughter of the late Eric W. and Lilian M. (Kirkbride) Humphries, and graduated from the Stafford Girls High School as valedictorian of the Class of 1956. She attended the London School of Economics, where she met Charles R. “Bud” Grader, a native of Marblehead. After completing her Bachelor of Science in Economics in 1959, she and Bud married, and together embarked on a life that took them around the world in the foreign service.

Sheila was not only a devoted wife, but an erudite partner on Bud’s diplomatic missions to Tunisia, Senegal, Cameroon, Nepal, Afghanistan, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Guinee. She was a lively conversationalist and an able diplomat in her own right, and dove into the study of each country, enrolling in the local universities and pouring through research on local culture, people, and politics. She was also a steadfast and loving mother during her family’s wide-ranging travels, exhibiting her characteristic stiff upper lip with calm and fortitude on many occasions. After meeting Secou Toure, the first African revolutionary to achieve independence for Guinee from France, she developed an interest in the topic of ideology in international relations, which blossomed into further study.

She returned to the London School of Economics to pursue her Ph.D., which she completed in 1988. Her thesis “International Relations and Ideology” was no less than an attempt to rescue the English school of international relations from the philosophical challenge presented by the phenomenon of ideology. She published several of her shorter works in political philosophy in scholarly journals. Although she received a contract to publish her Ph.D. thesis from the Cambridge University Press, she felt that she needed to address the larger problem of ideology itself and began a review of her thesis as a Resident Scholar at Harvard University. She also taught a course on Western Civilization at Northeastern University.

As a fiercely independent intellectual spirit acutely aware of her own personal susceptibility to ideological thinking, Sheila spent her life’s work wrestling with a comprehensive view of the meaning of ideology’s impact on philosophy – reading, critiquing, and reviewing the entire cannon of western thought and history to do so. She recently completed an ambitious draft of her “An Experiment on the Idea of Ideology,” which her family hopes will see the light of day in her honor. Although she joked that she could not hope to finish a book of this scope before she died, she persisted in her faith that her unique voice would ultimately be heard.

The hallmark of Sheila’s legacy is her loving children and family, her devotion to the mission of American diplomacy around the world, and her total commitment to the intellectual life. Her love of abstract ideas was tempered by her ever-present sense of humor, her love of classical music, and her deepening faith. As she grew older, she became more private, but her distance contrasted with her mastery of thoughtful kindnesses, which she would dispense freely to those she held close. Although she and Bud became estranged, a tragedy she came to own and for which she sought forgiveness, Sheila put down roots in Marblehead and devoted herself to her two grandsons, showering them with love, books, gifts, an endless stream of cards on every occasion. With them, as with her nieces and nephews in England, she re-discovered the love and family continuity that gave her true happiness to the end of her life. She took great comfort in her Christian faith and her worship at St. Michael’s Church.

Sheila is survived by her two children, Moses Grader, and his wife Gayle of Marblehead, and Sarah Ayotte, and her husband Rick of Essex, CT; by her brother John Humphries and her sister Valerie Ravenscroft, both of Stafford, United Kingdom; and two grandchildren Zach and Nick of Marblehead. Her funeral services will be held on Saturday, May 4, 2019, at 11:00 A.M. at St. Michael’s Church, 26 Pleasant St., Marblehead to be followed by a reception there celebrating her life. Interment will be private. At the family’s request there are no visiting hours. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to St. Michael’s Church. Arrangements by Eustis and Cornell of Marblehead. For online guest book or additional information please visit


  • Funeral Service Saturday, 4 May , 2019


Sheila L. Grader

have a memory or condolence to add?

Guy Ravenscroft

28 April 2019

Sheila was my aunt (sister to my mother, Val) and Godmother.

As a child I used to be rather shy of Sheila as she had the mystique of living abroad, and seemed so casual travelling between continents, and so confident with it. All accompanied by her (unusual to my Staffordian ears) American accent.

In more recent years I had the pleasure of meeting and talking to her to discover for myself a really kind, knowledgable and empathetic person. I will remember and cherish those conversations. At that time I was also bemused to find that from her perspective virtually no-one she met in America believed she had an American accent at all; quite British!

My thoughts go to all of Sheila’s family at this sad time, on both sides of the pond.

Jennifer Rawlinson

27 April 2019

Sheila was part of the Kirkbride family, a link which has united our joint grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins through recent generations. Although living many miles away and travelling across seas and continents Sheila knew her roots were grounded in Stafford, England.

Sheila was one of our older cousins. Whilst we (Joyce and Jenny) were at school Sheila embarked upon university life, a step which shaped her life and led her to many far flung parts of the globe to places we only read about in school text books and could only dream about visiting, rather like we would view a trip to the moon today, that is simply beyond our grasp! Sheila was a pioneer within the family and her Mum, our Aunty Lil, always kept our parents, Olive and Gordon, up to date with her travels and news. When Sheila came to Stafford there was a genuine warmth and friendliness, family reunited and time for conversation to begin. Olive and Gordon held Sheila in the highest regard and appreciated the fact she always took time to visit them.

It is sad our family now has one more member missing, but we know this will be restored in God's Eternal Kingdom. Our prayers and thoughts are with you all at this sad time.

Keith & Joyce Pearson and Len & Jenny Rawlinson

Pamela Matthew

24 April 2019

So sad to hear of Sheila’s sad passing.
I am one of her cousins. Many years ago back in sleepy Stafford, UK, I was in awe of my older cousin. We all realised what a very special person she was and what a tremendous talent she had. When letters arrived for Auntie Lil, her mother, we shared her experiences and travels. She had spread her wings and taken off into a world that, then, was beyond anything people from Stafford were ever-to imagine. Exciting and sometimes worrying.
How wonderful that she had these amazing, stimulating opportunities in her life and was able to be acknowledged by so many people around the world for her research and ideas.
However, whenever she returned to Stafford she always made us feel she had never been away. She knew what had been happening to the family and showed her interest in all.
She will be sadly missed “back home”, I am very proud that she was my cousin and gave me the impetuous to follow a career.