Carhartt Heiress and Jazz Patron Gretchen Valade Dies at 97

    Gretchen Valade

    Gretchen Valade, the granddaughter of Hamilton Carhartt, the founder of the Detroit-based Carhartt company, died Dec. 30 at her home in Grosse Pointe Farms, the family said in a statement. She was 97.

    Valade, a patron of the arts known, according to published reports, as the “Angel of Jazz,” used her family connections to promote the arts, especially jazz.

    Valade’s efforts included a foundation to keep Detroit’s annual jazz festival running and free to the public, according to Michigan Radio. She also started a record label, Mack Avenue Records, which has won several Grammys, and donated $9.5 million to support jazz studies and performance at Wayne State University.

    Valade remained active in the Carhartt company, and also owned several small businesses, including the Dirty Dog Jazz Café in Grosse Pointe, Michigan Radio reported.

    “Known by many as the ‘Angel of Jazz,’ she was a staple in metro Detroit’s business landscape, the jazz community and, of course, at Carhartt,” the company said in its statement. “Gretchen will be remembered for positively impacting countless people by establishing a foundation for the arts to keep Detroit’s annual jazz festival the largest free festival of its kind in North America. Her legacy will continue to live on through Carhartt, the Detroit Jazz Festival, and her many philanthropic endeavors.”

    Valade was preceded in death by a son, Christopher Valade. She is survived by son Mark Valade, daughter Gretchen Garth of Seattle, six grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.

    In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to COTS Detroit at or the Humane Society of Huron Valley at