Sunday, 25 April 2010
Wednesday, 14 April 2010
4th January 1925 – 19th February 2010
In the early hours of a snowy February morning, Joe Grant, my father, slipped away. The lung cancer that had been sapping his strength for the last few months had finally taken him from us, leaving us with only memories.
Joe was a life-long resident of Fenny Compton; born in the same house that he had lived in for all his long life. Indeed, with the exception of National Service, and one six month hiatus, he had worked his whole life in the village too, and consequently was known by many who live or have lived in the area.
While still a teenager war came to Europe, and he started his career as a gardener at the Red House. In the latter war years he was called upon to serve his country in the RAF. He was sent to France in the aftermath of the D-Day Landings, following the route of the invasion. An enduring memory for him was seeing the utter devastation of Caen as he passed through the town. After serving throughout northern Europe, he was posted to Egypt, where he tells us his RAF buddies taught him to swim - by throwing him in the swimming pool.
On de-mob he returned home to Fenny Compton and a career working for the village Co-op. One day while making his deliveries, he met Margaret who was making hers; she was the local mid-wife, but soon to become Mrs Joe Grant.
Many of the older residents of the area will remember the old green van that he drove as the Co-op extended deliveries to the surrounding villages, and perhaps also they will remember the young lad who would occasionally go with him. Certainly going on the rounds with Dad, is one of my earliest memories.
With a wife, daughter and son to feed, Joe made good use of his gardening skills, maintaining several plots around the village and keeping a regular supply of fresh vegetables on the dinner table. Yet he still found time to grow splendid chrysanthemum blooms of prize winning standard in his back garden.
Growing up with Dad I learned to appreciate Fenny Compton and the countryside around it. Blackberrying in autumn, sledging and jumping in snow drifts in the winter. One summer, as Dutch Elm Disease ravaged the Warwickshire elms, Dad was given permission to collect the treetops left behind after the dead trunks had been sold. We spent many evenings and weekends in the fields chopping, sawing and gathering the firewood to fill his barn. What we couldn’t use was burned on endless bonfires: Dad could never resist stoking a good bonfire.
In due course the Co-op stopped making deliveries, but found themselves in need of a new manager, and Dad took a step up. I don’t remember it as the happiest period of Dad’s life, and eventually he parted company with the Co-op to work in the stores of Compton Buildings.
On his retirement, Joe and Margaret took a long planned break to travel the world – six months in Australia and New Zealand. On his return he found that he had time on his hands, so he took on a paper round; finishing his career as he had started it – making deliveries! And not forgetting supplying firewood or bedding plants in season, helping my sister with her gardening business, and passing the time of day with anyone who happened to be passing. And of course when I had a garden of my own, he was there digging and planting and mowing, all in addition to doing his own.
As he reached his eighth decade, he had to start making concessions to advancing years; a walking stick, and watching someone else swing the axe to chop his firewood. But he could still watch the street from his living room window, and invite in friends and strangers alike with whom he would share his wealth of opinions, even when, last year, the first symptoms of cancer made him feel unwell. Many people have told us that Joe was the first person to welcome them when they moved into the village.
Last Christmas, though frail and ill, he would still watch for the school children to pass by, and keeping out of sight, he would get the Santa Claus figure on his window cill waving at them, just as he had done every Christmas for so many years.
Dad’s final weeks were spent at Warwick Myton Hospice. Their wonderful care gave dignity back to this once active man, his body failing, though his spirit wouldn’t. Even a few days before his death we had hopes that he would yet see another spring. Maybe even that he would be able to come home to his beloved Fenny Compton, but sadly it was not to be, and my Dad is gone.
In his long life Joe Grant was many things to many people. At his funeral, Fenny Compton church was filled with so many of those who had known and loved him over the years. Inside the church, they would not have seen Joe get his final wish; to journey up to the church on the old wheeled bier, which had been paid for by public subscription over 100 years ago and hadn’t been used in over 70 years. Amongst those who gave money for it were Charles and John Grant; his own Dad and Grandad.
Someone once said that the measure of a man is not how much you love, but how much you are loved. My Dad was greatly loved by so many. If you only had two words to sum up 85 years of life, then perhaps it would be difficult to choose a better two than ‘Greatly Loved’, unless it was just ‘My Dad’.
Paul A Grant
On 9th May I will be doing a sponsored cycle ride in aid of Myton Hospice. The ride will be a 35-mile round trip between the Myton Hospices in Warwick and Rugby and back. Joe’s granddaughters will be joining me in a trailer towed behind my bike.