Ed Grebitus Jr., a Sacramento business leader whose family name has been synonymous with “jewelry” in the region for nearly a century, has died. He was 93.
Grebitus – the “son” in Grebitus & Sons Jewelers – died May 3, seven hours after his 93rd birthday, according to his family. He was in hospice care at his home in Sacramento. Ted Grebitus, his oldest son, was with him when he died.
After serving in the Navy during World War II, he attended UC Berkeley and ran Grebitus Jewelers from the 1950s until the late ’90s, Ted Grebitus said.
Grebitus was passionate about developing Sacramento businesses, and he was a lifetime member of the Rotary Club of Sacramento, among a host of other community boards and organizations.
“He always would talk with anyone that wanted to talk about business in any form,” Kate Grebitus, his daughter, said. “He just was excited that people would want to go into business and be an entrepreneur.”
A few years after Grebitus graduated from Berkeley, he began working with his father to expand the family business. He was the driving force behind the opening of the second Grebitus Jewelers location in 1954, and he eventually became the company president. Son Ted now runs the business.
Edwin Arthur Grebitus Jr. was born May 2, 1926, in Sacramento, the same year his father, Edwin A. Grebitus Sr., opened Grebitus Jewelers. He attended Sacramento High School, but his mother had to walk across the stage to collect his diploma when he graduated, Kate Grebitus said. He had already left Sacramento to enlist in the Navy.
After enlisting in 1944, Grebitus was sent to the South Pacific as a Seabee. He trained as an electrician and ship repairman, and traveled to islands such as Saipan, Tinian, Guam and Espiritu Santo, his daughter Amy Goodheart said.
“He met some of the most incredible Navy personnel that he was friends with his whole life,” Kate Grebitus said. “He was really impressed because he was an only child and it was like all of a sudden everybody on the ship is your brother.”
Grebitus was honorably discharged in 1946 and attended Sacramento City College for a year before studying business at UC Berkeley. He graduated with an economics degree in 1950, the same year he married his wife, Beth Breuner, whose family owned Breuners Home Furnishings. Breuner died in 2008.
“He met her driving their families’ wooden boats up on Lake Tahoe,” Kate Grebitus said. “He said he was smitten. He found his wife that day.”
Grebitus and his wife had six kids: Ted, Tom, Bill, Bo, Kate and Amy. He enjoyed sailing and other outdoor activities with his large family, and he restored classic boats with Ted.
Family friend Ed Wright met Grebitus through Chi Phi, a fraternity at Berkeley. Wright was fundraising for the fraternity, and he wrote letters to fraternity alumni asking for help. He said one of the best responses he got was from Grebitus, and they were friends ever since.
“He really knew how to find the joy in life and really got the most out of life on a daily basis,” Wright said. “At 93 he was still game...to attend a banquet of his fraternity brothers and stay up until one in the morning.”
Wright said Grebitus was a “real gentleman” and he remained a supporter of the fraternity throughout his lifetime. This character, Wright said, defined Grebitus as a businessman, too.
“His focus on customer service, on really devoting personal attention to the customer and the customers’ needs, was exceptional,” Wright said. “He was really old school.”
Grebitus retired in the ’90s – on his wife’s orders, Ted Grebitus said. Ed and Beth were at a party, he said, and a friend asked when Grebitus would be retiring.
“My mother heard the conversation and she said ‘I’m not going into the store on Monday and neither is he,’” Ted Grebitus said. Grebitus did as his wife said, and Ted took over running the store.
But Grebitus still maintained an active and energetic life in retirement. Wright said that even as a nonagenarian, Grebitus woke up and spent 40 minutes on his exercise bike every day and had been looking forward to traveling to Hawaii before he died.
Grebitus is survived by his six children, as well as 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at Trinity Cathedral Church in downtown Sacramento May 29 at 11 a.m.
Guests can park at Sutter Community Garage on N Street. The family asked that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be sent to the Rotary Club of Sacramento Foundation.