Ronald J. Gralewicz, 57, software system engineer and nurse in trauma unit

March 03, 2002|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Ronald J. Gralewicz, a computer software system engineer and registered nurse who worked weekends at a rehabilitation center for brain trauma patients, died of heart failure Tuesday at Northwest Hospital Center. He was 57 and lived in Lochearn.

Mr. Gralewicz worked for many years in the Washington and Baltimore area as a computer specialist. Most recently, he was employed by Global Management Systems Inc. and was working on a contract job at the Office of Child Support at Social Security Administration headquarters in Woodlawn.

Previously, he was employed by the Maryland State Police, the Department of Motor Vehicles and several other businesses and agencies.

Two weekends a month, he worked in the traumatic brain-injury unit at Kernan Hospital in West Baltimore. Dressed in a white lab coat, Mr. Gralewicz was often mistaken for a doctor. Some of his colleagues called him "Dr. Ron," said Sadie Parker, patient-care manager of the traumatic brain-injury unit. His soft, gentle voice was a comfort to patients, many of whom had been injured in car accidents or shootings, she said.

He also served as an emergency medical technician and firefighter with the Liberty Road Volunteer Fire Company in Randallstown.

Mr. Gralewicz was born in Bayonne, N.J., and graduated from Bayonne High School in 1962. He joined the Navy shortly after he left school. "He always wanted adventure," said his wife of 27 years, the former Jean Sauter.

During the Vietnam War, he worked on a river patrol boat in the Mekong Delta. His last tour of duty in the Navy was working as an aide in the War Room at the Pentagon.

Later, he joined the Army 11th Special Forces Reserve, a Green Beret unit that trained to fight in mountainous and snowy terrain.

A member of the team for 20 years, he was a field medic.

Mr. Gralewicz earned an associate degree in mathematics from Northern Virginia Community College in Arlington in the 1970s and two bachelor's degrees, one each in computer systems management and nursing, from Villa Julie College in Stevenson in the 1990s.

Even after he had completed the night school degree program at Villa Julie College, a process that took him six years, he continued to conduct tours of the campus for prospective and new students, his wife said.

Mr. Gralewicz doted on his niece and nephews. When his niece, Emily Appelbaum of Baltimore, started swimming lessons, he trained to become a race official with the Central Maryland Swimming League so that he could spend more time with her.

"Even though he wasn't a father himself, he was more involved than most fathers," Ms. Appelbaum said of her uncle.

"When I was little, he would walk along the pool and cheer me on. It was always comforting to have him there," she said.

A trip to Lake Placid, N.Y., to watch the 1980 Winter Olympics hooked Mr. Gralewicz on the sport of luge, an activity in which athletes slide down an icy chute on a sled.

As a certified U.S. luge official, he was to participate in the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City but was too ill to travel.

He enjoyed spending weekends with his wife at a second home at Deep Creek in Western Maryland.

Services were held Friday.

In addition to his wife and niece, he is survived by his mother, Irene Wolczynski Gralewicz , of Toms River, N.J; a sister, Dorothy Melchior, of Skillman, N.J.; and two nephews, Steven Melchior of Ewing, N.J., and Michael Melchior, of West Lafayette, Ind.

Memorial contributions may be sent to Villa Julie College, Development Office, 1525 Greenspring Valley Road, Stevenson 21153.

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