Opinion

Margaret Grade, Whose California Inn Was Beloved by Stars, Dies at 72

Margaret Grade, a California neuropsychologist who made a sharp career turn to open a cozy, eclectic inn near the Point Reyes National Seashore that was known for tending to farmers and fishers with the same attentiveness it gave to the film stars and writers who sought sanctuary there, died on Feb. 28 in San Francisco. She was 72.

Ms. Grade was injured in a car accident in Marin County on Jan. 11. She spent several weeks in a hospital before she died there of complications related to her injuries, her brother Matthew Grade, a physician, said.

The introverted Ms. Grade acknowledged that she was a most unlikely innkeeper.

“If they put me in the front, I would be bad for business,” she said in a 2003 interview with The San Francisco Chronicle. She also admitted that when she opened her inn, Manka’s Inverness Lodge, she didn’t have the first idea about running an establishment. “I didn’t know the term ‘working capital,’ and as a result I had none,” she said.

Still, Manka’s, a century-old former hunting retreat tucked into the woods two hours northwest of San Francisco in Inverness, Calif., was in the vanguard of hyperlocal food, a haven for chefs and celebrities and a national media darling.

Ms. Grade (pronounced GRAH-dee) was more than an innkeeper. She had a preternatural ability to anticipate guests’ desires and sometimes had unusual ways of fulfilling them.

“She is not someone I would call warm, but you always felt the touch of her hand in every room,” the actor Frances McDormand, who for years spent holidays there with her family, said by phone. “She had an old-fashioned understanding of what true luxury is. Part of her real gift was making a fantasy that you just fell into. It was witchy.”

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