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Louie Grinnell

September 28, 1935 -  August 3, 2019

Louie Grinnell started training at my dojo in Waterford, MI in 1967.This started a distinguished career for him as an outstanding Isshinryu Karate-ka and instructor. Louis came from a boxing background. As a teenager, he would travel to the Kronk Gym in Detroit here he was a paid sparring partner for professional contenders in the lighter weight classes. He worked his way through the ranks of Isshinryu to Black Belt and took over teaching the Isshinryu classes at the Community Activity Center in 1972. He eventually purchased this program from me in 1974 and continued to teach there until 1988. I promoted Sensei Grinnell from 1st Dan up through the rank of 5th Dan in 1976 when I took an extended break from Isshinryu. 

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Donnelly & Grinnell 1969 Waterford Dojo   

In 1986 Sensei Sherman Harrill accepted Sensei Grinnell as a student. Sensei Harrill promoted Sensei Grinnell to the rank of 6th Dan and finally 7th Dan in 1996. Sensei Grinnell trained with him  until Sensei Harrill's death in 2002. Sensei Grinnell often spoke fondly about these years of training and his relationship with Sensei Harrell. 

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Sherman Harrill & Louie Grinnell

Sensei Grinnell retired from General Motors after twenty-five years and moved to Clinton, TN in 1988. He started teaching at Sensei Allen Wheeler's dojo in Powell, TN soon after the move. In addition to Isshinryu, Sensei Grinnell trained in Arnis with Remy Presas from 1987 until 2001 when Sensei Presas passed away. He enjoyed Arnis and edged weapons. I attended a seminar in Knoxville where Sensei Grinnell taught Isshinryu and knife techniques. He was a talented martial artist with a wide variety of skills. Sensei Wheeler promoted Sensei Grinnell to 8th Dan in 2003. He taught at Sensei Wheeler's dojo until 2012 when his health failed to a point when he could no longer continue. Through the years Sensei Grinnell taught Isshinryu to thousands of students and enjoyed every minute of it. 

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The Grinnell Family - Wife, Daughter, and 2 Sons

The Grinnell's Left to Right - Paul, Louis, Andrea, Hettie, and Lance Grinnell

These things were major accomplishments in his life but not the most significant in my opinion. Louie Grinnell was a great family man and married to Hettie Grinnell for over 59 years. They raised three wonderful children; Paul, Lance, and Andrea, had seven grand children, and several great grand children. He took particular pride in the fact that his children turned out to be responsible adults, parents, and productive members of society. He was devoted to his family and friends and I never heard him speak badly about anyone. These are rare qualities that we should all respect and aspire to live up too. Louie spent time teaching Isshinryu to his boys and was very proud of their accomplishments in the art.

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Sensei Grinnell & His Son Lance Grinnell - Waterford Dojo

Louie Grinnell was my friend for over 50 years. We all have many acquaintances but true friends take years to develop and most of us are lucky to have three or four true friends. I treasured his friendship and considered him to be a true friend. There were gaps of time when I was not active in Isshinryu but I kept in contact with him through the years. He lived in Tennessee and I live in Michigan so we could not spend much face-to-face time together but we would talk on the phone. Louis suffered from congestive heart failure for the past ten years. I know this was difficult for him but he never complained. He accepted his ailing heath with the resolve to deal with it and not be any more of a burden to others than necessary.  

Over the past ten years I made occasional trips to the Isshinryu Hall of Fame tournament in Knoxville, TN. I always tried to stop in Clinton to spend time with Louie and Hettie and take them to lunch or dinner. Two years ago I arranged for Paul Lampi and Jeff Hartman to travel with me to see Louie in Clinton. Paul and Jeff were fellow Black Belts that trained with Louie for many years. He had not see them in over 40 years. We took Louie, Hettie, his daughter Andrea, and their entire extended family to lunch. I believe this was a special day for Louie but it was more special for Paul, Jeff, and myself as we knew the clock was running out for him. 


Left to Right: Norbert Donnelly, Jeff Hartman, Louis Grinnell, and Paul Lampi -  July 2017

Sensei Grinnell passed away on August 3, 2019 at age 84. He will be missed by family, friends, and the Isshinryu community that learned so much from him.

God rest your soul my friend.

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