In the Homewood
Student Financial Services Office where Zig Gregory
worked, he was known as "Mr. G." or "Lord of the Files," a
name he gave himself when he joined the office as a file
clerk in 1999 — at the age of 80.
"When Joan Ostrowski [of Homewood Human Resources]
called and asked if I would hire an 80-year-old man, I told
her I wouldn't discriminate as long as he could spell,"
said Ellen Frishberg, director of the office. "Little did I
know she meant her dad — who not only spelled but
re-engineered and organized our files, and drew schematics
and diagrams so that we never lost another piece of paper
in the six years he dutifully came to work."
Gregory died Feb. 12 at Manor Care Rehabilitation
Center after several months' illness during which he kept
saying he had to get better because he had to go back to
work. He was 85.
Four days a week — with the exception of the two
extended cruises that he and his wife, Claire, took every
year — Gregory was there every day, working those
files and telling his colleagues stories. "The staff loved
his stories, his gentle ways, his work ethic and his
jokes," Frishberg said. "We miss him already."
The sign that he put in his cubicle — "Lord of
the Files (with no apologies to William Golding)" —
will remain, she said.
Charles Ziegler Gregory Sr., who came to Johns Hopkins
many years into his retirement, also loved working at the
university for reasons that went beyond his job: Not only
did his daughter work here, but he was a dedicated alumnus.
"To anyone who would listen, he would say that the
things he was proudest of were his daughter — that
would be me — and his Hopkins diploma," Ostrowski
Born July 28, 1919, in Baltimore, Gregory graduated
from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and in 1938 entered
Johns Hopkins to study mechanical engineering. He signed up
for ROTC as an elective, and as an extracurricular
activity, he decided to join the band — but it met on
Monday afternoons, the same time as his ROTC drill.
In the memoirs he began writing in 2001 for his
grandchildren, Gregory recalled his fateful meeting with
band director Conrad Gebelein, who told the erstwhile bugle
player that he would start him on the mellophone. "He said
that if I was in ROTC, and a member of the band, then
rehearsals counted as 'drill,' " Gregory wrote. "So, I
became an instant musician."
In his second year, Gregory was named student director
of the band. Because it was difficult to recruit musicians
in a small school, he came up with the idea of asking the
registrar for a list of incoming students who reported
musical experience on their applications. He printed a
welcome letter on the reverse of a campus map, circled the
auditions spot, sent it out to incoming students and ended
up with not only a proper mix of instruments but a waiting
list as well. The band played for all ROTC exhibitions, as
well as home lacrosse and football games. "The school did
have a band for many years thereafter," he wrote to his
grandchildren. "This was one of the things I did that made
me feel good."
Gregory graduated from the School of Engineering in
1942, a diploma in one hand and orders to go to war in the
other. Trained at Aberdeen Proving Grounds as a bomb
disposal officer, he served in Great Britain, France and
the United States, rising to the rank of major.
In 1945, finished with his tour of duty and not quite
sure what he wanted to do for a career, Gregory was offered
a newly created position at Hochschild, Kohn & Co., a
department store in downtown Baltimore, to supervise a
building program that would include air conditioning parts
of the store, installing 10 escalators, replacing six
elevators and building two branch stores. The job he
thought would last a couple of years turned into one that
engaged him fully for 35.
Between his retirement in 1980 and his arrival at
Johns Hopkins in 1999, he took and retired from several
part-time jobs and also worked with his son-in-law's
family, the Ostrowskis, in the sausage-making business.
Gregory is survived by his wife, the former Claire
Foster, whom he first met in grade school when they both
attended Daily Vacation Bible School at Reformation Church;
his daughter Joan Ostrowski, a senior employment specialist
in Homewood Human Resources; a son, Charles Z. Gregory Jr.;
six grandchildren; and four great grandchildren. His late
grandson Christopher Ostrowski also worked at Johns
A funeral and interment took place on Thursday.