Thursday, March 2, 2006
Lake Area Mourns 'Butch' Grant
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
CEDAR CREEK LAKE- One of the area's sterling silver citizens has died.
James M. "Butch" Grant, current fire marshal for Seven Points and longtime fire chief for the Gun Barrel City Volunteer Fire Department, died Monday at age 64.
He leaves behind his wife Margo, son Michael and daughter-in-law Krystal, stepsons Jordan and Jared Coster, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
He is also survived by his sister, Janell Palmer of Jacksonville, Fla., brother Jeff Grant and wife Karen of Athens.
Grant had returned home from working the night shift as a security guard at East Texas Medical Center in Gun Barrel City that morning, and had gone to sleep. He never awoke.
Friends and fellow firefighters shared some of their memories with The Monitor of the man, who most looked up to as a father, admired as an intellectual, marveled over as an inventor and writer, and honored as a good man.
"He loved the outdoors, and he was a deeply religious man," GBC Fire Capt. Tom Mize related. "He knew natural cures for everything."
"He could heal a migraine with a neck rub and soothe an upset stomach with leaves he pulled out of the yard," GBC Fire Lt. Nick Skinner recalled.
His kind treatment of volunteers at the firehouse is just one way he served those who served with him.
"He made the Gun Barrel City Fire Department what it is today," Mize concluded. "He was dedicated to the department."
Grant led the department first as a volunteer, and then as its first paid fire chief from 1974 to 2000, when he "retired." Soon afterwards, he was recruited as the fire marshal for Seven Points, working part-time as the city's fire investigator.
During his tenure in GBC, he and the volunteer fire department built much of the present day fire station, at least the inside, and saw it dedicated in ceremonies April 22, 1994.
That next year, he enrolled with the police academy as part of his certification to be a fire inspector.
Grant also fought a long, hard battle with city hall for paid positions at the firehouse, trying to keep it staffed 24 hours a day, and eventually won.
He saw the station acquire three new pieces of equipment, including a tanker and fire engine.
Most importantly, under his watch, no firefighter died while fighting a fire. For this accolade the governor of Texas bestowed on him the "Wings of Life" Safety Award for many years.
It was just one of numerous awards he garnered over his long life of community service.
"He never made a big deal about it (his awards)," his son Mike told The Monitor. He never had even one serious injury on his watch, Mike Grant related.
"The only (injury) that occurred that was close to being serious happened when I was his assistant chief and he was off duty," he admitted. "He taught me everything I know about firefighting."
Grant taught a lot of men how to fight fires safely, and he played the role of mentor to the young men under his charge.
"It didn't matter if it was 3 in the morning, he'd just put on a pot of coffee and be willing to listen to you when you needed to talk," Skinner related.
He also enjoyed riding his motorcycle. "He rode it every day," Skinner said.
Grant earned much of his living as an auto mechanic at Teague Chevrolet.
"He was a very intelligent guy, an inventor. He was always inventing stuff," Mize adds.
Two inventions of his are still in use by the department today, the piercing stinger nozzle and the meter puller.
The piercing stinger nozzle looks like a spear, and is used to pierce through the ceiling or roof to get water at an attic fire.
The meter puller allows firefighters to pull electric meters without getting electrocuted.
His son Mike found his inventiveness so frustrating because Grant wouldn't patent any of it.
In his spare time, Grant was a prolific writer. In 2003, he published his first book, called "Cross Wired," a murder mystery.
"I found a letter from a publisher on his desk, today for a second book publishing," Mike Grant said with a catch in his voice. "It's what he enjoyed doing."
Grant has many unpublished writings, he noted.
"He taught me three things," Mike Grant said:
* "How to deal with the world and take care of myself,
* "be a firefighter, and
* enjoy life."
Mike Grant's fondest memories of his dad are working with him as a firefighter.
"We fought many fires together," he said.
"He'll really be missed around here," Mike said as he blinked back the tears. "They'll be no replacing him."
Monitor File Photo
James "Butch" Grant debuts his first published work "Cross Wired" at a book signing in August, 2004. His family knew him to be a prolific writer.
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