Frederick D. Grave was born in Osnabruck, Germany, in 1849. His family came to America in 1861, and he became an apprentice to a Cincinnati cigar maker. He joined New Haven’s Osterweis Cigar manufacturer as a foreman in 1873, and 12 years later he started his own shop. Frederick D. Grave and Sons employed 150 workers and produced 100,000 cigars a week during the first years of the 20th century. Frederick Grave appreciated all that his adopted hometown helped him to achieve, and in recognition called his State Street offices the Judges’ Cave Cigar Factory after the West Rock hideout of the judges who signed the death warrent of King Charles I in 1649. But his community support went beyond a salute to West Rock. He contributed to German immigrant community activities as well as to civic causes that aided the entire city. He was president of the German Aid Society of New Haven, a director of the Grace Hospital Society, and the Merchants National Bank, and a member of the New Haven Colony Historical Society.
Grave and his wife, New Haven born Catherine Elizabeth Stofell, had three children. Their son, Frederick Grave, Jr. attended Yale, joined the family business, and served as Reunion Chair and a board member of Farnam Neighborhood House. His sons, Frederick III and Richard, attended Yale and joined him in the family business. Richard Grave accepted a position on The Foundation’s board in 1980 and had been actively involved up until his death in 2011.
In 1987, the family established the Grave Family Fund with a preference for the health needs of people who live and work in New Haven County. The Fund, a memorial to departed Grave family members, recognizes the continuing journey that Frederick D. Grave began at Osterweis in 1873. His grandson, Frederick III, whose daughter is memorialized by the fund, calls it, “a headstone, but better, since it goes on in perpetuity and can change the community.”
Over the years, grants from The Grave Family Fund have been made to the following non-profits:
- CitySeed, to support its work to grow an equitable, local food system that promotes economic development, community development and sustainable agriculture
- Yale-New Haven Hospital to support care coordination services to pregnant women, with a focus on African American women, to improve birth outcomes
- Clifford W. Beers Guidance Clinic to support alliances with Greater New Haven youth serving organizations to improve the mental health of children
- Marrakech to support its Acquired Brain Injury Program