Gratia Willa Derrick, 85, of New York City, N.Y., formerly of St. Louis and Marshall, died Thursday, Feb. 15, 2007, at home.
Cremation, with memorial services pending.
Born Jan. 26, 1922, in St. Louis, she was the daughter of the late Charles Emil Spahn and Anna Christina Ingebore Hansen. In May 1954, she married Carl Nicholas Brandberg. In October 1961, she married Charles Arnold Derrick, who preceded her in death in September 1995. While living in Marshall, she attended Trinity Episcopal Church.
She was a professional concert and grand opera singer, beginning her vocal training in St. Louis at age 13, under the direction of vocal coach and uncle, Thomas Spahn. She attended Washington University in St. Louis, studying in foreign languages. She became a mezzo soprano and studied in Italy under the direction of Mario Ferraro, singing Italian art songs for Radio Napoli, and also studied under Arturo Toscanini with the New York Philharmonic Symphony. She sang with tenor Beniamino Gigli with the New York Opera Company in the early 1940s. She performed summer stock for the Muny Opera in St. Louis. While living at Carnegie Hall, she joined the Metropolitan Opera Touring Company, performing leading roles in numerous performances, both on a national and international level under her stage name, Gratia Christie. She was the first vocalist to sing George H. Corey's famous song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," and collaborated with him on numerous edits to the piece, making it the well-known tune of today. She retired as a retail specialist for Central Hardware in St. Louis in 1997.
Survivors include three daughters, Disa Brandberg Farris and husband, David, of Marshall, Carla Brandberg Darmanin and husband, Joseph, of New York City, and Erica Derrick and companion, Lorand Ernyey, of New York City; three grandsons, Joshua King, Jonathan King, and Carl Darmanin.
Additional information provided per family recompense.