Gretchen Valade, “Angel of Jazz,” Passes at Age 97

Gretchen Valade passed away on December 30 last year. She was often called an angel of jazz and she certainly acted as one in her hometown. She had a lifelong passion for the arts — and jazz in particular. Her financial support started in 2005 when there was talk of the Detroit Jazz Festival closing. The Carhartt heiress threw in $10 million to save the Festival. At that time the Festival was administered by the Music Hall; it is now part of the nonprofit Detroit Jazz Festival Foundation. Her support for the Festival grew and remained until her passing.

She is also the owner of the Dirty Dog Jazz Café in Grosse Pointe Farms, and in 1999, at age 74, Valade founded Mack Avenue Records with Stix Hooper, a producer and musician with several record awards to his credit. Valade preferred to stay in the shadows but that became unrealistic as her activities grew and her name appeared on the face of buildings such as the Gretchen C. Valade Jazz Center at Wayne State University which is scheduled to open in 2024. The Center will have a performance space and a jazz club, and in this she collaborated with Chris Collins who is Professor of Jazz Studies at Wayne and the Artistic Director of the Detroit Jazz Festival.