Grilley, Robert (L.) 1920-

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GRILLEY, Robert (L.) 1920-

PERSONAL: Born November 14, 1920, in Lancaster, WI; son of Robert Earl and Ella Louise (a schoolteacher; maiden name, Cruger) Grilley; married Shirley Gene Miller, January, 1945 (marriage ended); married Ei Terasawa (a scientist), June 7, 1955; children: (first marriage) Rinelda, Robert G. Dorian; (second marriage) Juneko. Ethnicity: "Irish-German." Education: University of Wisconsin—Madison, B.S., 1942, M.F.A., 1946. Politics: Democrat. Hobbies and other interests: Flying his own plane.

ADDRESSES: Home—2802 Ridge Rd., Madison, WI 53705.

CAREER: Educator and figurative painter. University of Wisconsin—Madison, professor of art, 1945-87, professor emeritus, 1987—, department chair, 1960-65. Exhibitions: Work exhibited at Wichita Museum, 1987. Military service: U.S. Army Air Forces, navigator during World War II; served in Europe; received Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters, and Presidential Unit Citation.


Return from Berlin: The Eye of a Navigator (memoir), University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 2003.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang, a memoir of childhood.

SIDELIGHTS: Robert Grilley told CA: "Writing is for me a form of visual expression. It is closely akin to my life's work as a figurative painter. Literary works that I love most involve visual metaphor as we see in Shakespeare's sonnets. My long-term memory is primarily visual, and since I am an old man, the things I write about come from a world of introspective remembrance, virtual reality with a touch of educated invention.

"My only published work, Return from Berlin: The Eye of a Navigator, has profound visual contrasts—the look of a dense barrage of flak bursts, a B-17 wrapped in orange flame, trailing smoke, the sun-bleached, tiny white hairs on the arm of a child, the tall cumulus in late afternoon, whiter on its western side than anything else in the world.

"Also the book contrasts the excitement of battle, which has no counterpart in ordinary existence, with the before-and-after speculation about how and why young men can be persuaded to do such unreasonable things. No one was drafted to fly. In looking back through the long tunnel of time, I speculate what death in combat could be like, but survival was the winning number on my lottery ticket, a new one for each mission. Finally, when I came back to the U.S.A. unscathed, I wondered why.

"In a very different vein, I, as an artist, saw a symbol for life as it should be, the real intention of nature in Elizabeth, a going-on-nine-year-old girl who lived at Yokehill Farm, the site of my squadron billeting. I made many landscape drawings with her included."



Grilley, Robert, Return from Berlin: The Eye of a Navigator, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 2003.