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Grace Elaine Duling Hayford

February 22, 2021


Grace Elaine Duling Hayford, of New Castle, DE died Monday, February 22, 2021, at Christiana Hospital in New Castle County, Delaware. She was 84 years old.

Born July 19, 1936, in New Castle to Ralph and Ruth Zimmerman Duling, she graduated from William Penn High School in 1953, where she sang in a girls’ choral group. She earned a bachelor’s degree in education with a minor in music at the University of Delaware and began her teaching career in 1957.

In 1969 she married Col. Richard M. Hayford. The couple lived in Newark for a time and then moved to Hance’s Point of North East Maryland in 1970, where they lived near the water and helped raise Mallard ducks. They returned to New Castle in 1977.

Grace taught first grade for several years and became involved in pioneering efforts toward special education, teaching reading readiness to students who struggled with reading. Her interest in this specialized area led her to study for a year at University of Oklahoma at Norman, which offered classes for special education teachers. She went on to earn her master’s degree in education from the University of Delaware in 1970. 

Grace taught special education students at several area schools in the New Castle Special School District, Delaware-Rosehill School District, Meadowood TMR School, Stanton School and Red Clay Consolidated. She later taught kindergarten for 22 years before retiring from Richey Elementary in 2000 after 42 years total in teaching. Grace was remembered by her peers as incorporating music and songs every day into her classroom and teaching methods. She was also known for her matching head-to-toe outfits and sporting unique knit sweaters with educational themes such as math, the alphabet, different holidays and seasons of the year. A fellow staff member wished her well with retirement by saying, “Everything I needed to know in kindergarten I learned from Mrs. Hayford’s sweaters.” 

She was fond of purebred Salukis, Toy Manchesters, and Ibizan Hounds. Grace shared company with 17 dogs as well as three beloved cats named Buffy over her lifetime. Ibizan hounds King Tut and Gyspy Pearl were her most recent companion dogs. Grace was a loving and devoted pet owner and leaves behind one cat, Buffy III. 

Grace was an active member in her community and often volunteered or held a chair in local clubs and organizations. She was a member of the New Castle Historical Society and the First State Mini Club of New Castle. Grace was an avid miniaturist and took on many miniature doll house projects, including a 1-inch-to-scale replica of the Historical New Castle Dutch House. Her miniatures were often displayed in club shows and at the local library along with work from other club members. She had many other interests, as well, including collecting sheet music from the 1920s-40s (which she also played on the piano), collecting cobalt blue glass, curating a display of holiday decorations for her home and classrooms, needlepoint, ceramics, flower arranging, photography, collecting New Castle ephemera, old movies, and reading. Grace was also a member of the Blue Hen Chapter of the Sweet Adelines Inc. in the early 60s, where she made lifelong friends. She was involved in many other groups such as the Red Hat Society, Teachers Lunch Bunch, and the Delaware Diamond Dames, and others. She was a member of the New Castle Presbyterian Church. 

Grace was also a historian and record keeper by nature. She documented her life in photographs and cherished the ones passed down to her from her parents. Grace kept excellent records of her life events and enjoyed spending time looking through old photos and super 8 family videos of summer picnics with her husband, parents, neighbors and pets, as well as her travels to Europe as a young adult. Grace was also a beloved pen pal to many friends and acquaintances she met through her many interests. She is best remembered by her signature cards, featuring a drawing of one of her pets and always signed “YKW” You Know Who. Her spirit was as fiery as the color of her brilliant red hair, and her magnificent life will continue to be remembered in our hearts just as brightly. 

Grace was preceded in death by her husband, who died Aug. 25,1989, and her parents. She is survived by cousins, Elaine Richards Hellmund and family of Leander, TX, and Bonnie Thomas Gullik and family of Wickliffe, OH.

A graveside service will be private in the New Castle Presbyterian Church Cemetery, New Castle, DE.

Memorials may be made to New Castle Presbyterian Church, Brandywine Valley SPCA of New Castle, Goodwill Fire Co. of New Castle, and the First State Mini Club.

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Private Burial

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