Chester Martin Remembers 3 Fine Ones We Lost

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 - by Chester Martin
Virginia Gross
Virginia Gross

Those three would be John Battle, Elliott Dubrow and Virginia Gross. All three were very distinct and distinctive individuals who sadly died just as their careers were starting. I give them here in alphabetical order.

John Battle was the one I knew best, and I remember him for his complete and total devotion to the Spanish Language - his Major at the University of Chattanooga. He was the epitome of a student completely lost in his studies. He had undoubtedly taken Spanish while in high school, although I do not know that for a fact. I only was able to observe that he always chose to sit on the first row of Spanish class at the university and was always first to respond to the professor, Miss Terrell Louise Tatum’s, questions.

John was one of those who always was going out of his way to find some different or new way to immerse himself in the Spanish Language. Spanish Literature is rich with plays and playwrights, so he found a short play he liked and invited me to be one of the actors. With regret, I had to decline the offer because of my scholastic work-load, but we got to talk about Spain and Spanish, as it was a mutual interest. Time passed, and our paths no longer crossed. I started my first job after graduation from UC, and John went on to endeavors unknown. By deduction, I have long-since decided that John went on to graduate school to get a Master's Degree in Spanish, which would qualify him to teach at the College level.

One morning, however, there was a story in the Chattanooga Times newspaper reporting his death - somewhere in the northeast U.S. John had gotten a junior professorship at a major university in that area and was driving there to accept it. It was night and raining heavily as he approached his destination. His car skidded and he hit something - or something hit him - which killed him instantly.

John would have been a great asset to any school where he would have taught, as he had the ability to work patiently with students, and inspire others. I will always remember his enthusiasm when attempting to sell me on the idea of participating in that Spanish play. That was his method for keeping  his own mind active in his chosen subject, long before the Internet. In that day (early 1960's) a "real" Spanish Language newspaper was a treasure to come by, while today there are dozens of them online. John Battle was using every opportunity to better himself in his chosen subject, while inspiring others to do the same.

*     *     *

Elliott Dubrow was another member of a Spanish class - and he also sat in a front row seat. Always neatly dressed in suit and tie, he exuded "professionalism", and was always of a very cheerful manner. Everybody liked him, and I only had the one class with him. I can imagine that he was active in the Kahlil Society at UC and was probably a participant in many campus activities. His great love was “Sport”, however, so was honing his personality and professional abilities to become a sportscaster. He soon landed a good job as a sports announcer on one of our new TV channels where he was well-received by his viewers. Unfortunately, he was returning home one night from a sporting event, and accelerated his car while exiting an access road onto one segment of our developing freeway system. He was looking back toward the on-coming traffic, so as to merge at correct speed. He neglected to notice the slow-moving tractor/trailer rig on the freeway – and ran his car at high speed under the trailer…

·            *     *

Virginia Gross was a pianist, but best known in the area as an accompanist. She was highly qualified on the piano to play any sort of composition, however, she found her niche by accompanying others. On the local scene there was hardly a musical program of any sort where she was not plying her craft to enhance the work of others. Always dependable and striving to please, she would work to make the primary performer – whether vocalist or instrumentalist, to sound better. She had studied piano with Frances Hall Hill, and music theory with Dr. Werner Wolff, co-founder of the Chattanooga Opera Association. Virginia was always a very quiet and selfless person. Never assertive, but always patient and willing to do the bidding of any Director, she was a dream for many to work with. I was astounded to read her obit one morning, the victim of some dread disease, before age 40.

These are very hard memories to think about, as I remember all three as vibrant personalities, full of life and wit. I am sure there were others who left us early in life, but these are the three I remember best. This was written without any reference material, entirely “off the top of my head”. If there is any error, it will be a minor detail; the basic stories are accurate. Unfortunately I can only share one picture with you.

(Chester Martin is a native Chattanoogan who is a talented painter as well as local historian. He and his wife, Pat, live in Brainerd. Mr. Martin can be reached at cymppm@comcast.net )


Chester Martin
Chester Martin


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