John Grant

Obituary of John Howard Grant

John Howard "Hap" Grant, 99, passed away on Friday, November 30th. He was born in Newport in 1908 and spent his entire life here in jobs linked to support of the great families and estates of high society Newport. He attended St. Augustin's School and De La Salle Academy. In the 1950's, he was a member of a group that helped organize and run the Eastern States Catholic Invitation Tournament at De La Salle, making Newport a major showcase for some of the great high school basketball teams and individual stars from New York City, Philadelphia and elsewhere. Mr. Grant was one of the last local participants in the unique cultural and social era of early 20th century Newport. As a youth, he witnessed his father driving horse-drawn carriages and sleighs throughout Newport and the region, and he spent time with his uncle grooming the magnificent horses in the stables of the John Nicholas Brown estate, Harbour Court, where he was born. He followed this family tradition into the motor age when he became a chauffer for Commodore and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, driving them and their guests around Newport and to other estates and spas along the Eastern United States. During Newport summers, he participated in the grand promenades along Bellevue Avenue and to formal visitations and dinner parties at the great estates throughout Aquidneck Island. General "Black Jack" Pershing, who led the US Expeditionary Force in World War I, was among the luminaries he drove. He later became Superintendent of the Vanderbilt estate at "Beaulieu", Bellevue Avenue, and was among the artisans and craftsmen who created the beautiful gardens, colorful flower beds and carefully groomed landscapes on the great Newport Estates. For years, he joined many of his friends and fellow Newport estate superintendents and gardeners in creating spectacular floral and landscaping displays, winning prizes at Newport flower shows and at annual New England Flower Shows in Boston. In the mid-1950s, Mr. Grant became Superintendent at "Moorland Farm", the John Barry Ryan estate on Hammersmith Road in Newport, where he raised sheep and tended fruit orchards in addition to maintaining the grounds. In his later years, he was called upon by the Newport Preservation Society to participate in their oral history of the great estates and the local work force that were all part of high society Newport in the early years of the 20th century. In 2002, he received the Society's Laurel Award, in recognition of his invaluable insight and advice on the upkeep and enhancement of the Society's historic landscapes. Mr. Grant is survived by his wife of 69 years, Katherine Hale Grant of Portsmouth, R.I. He is also survived by his son Brigadier General James Grant, USAF (ret.) of Fairfax Station, Virginia; his daughter Kathleen Leonard of Cumberland, RI; his son John Howard Grant, Jr. of Newport, RI; his son Thomas Grant, of Beverly, Massachusetts; and his cousin, Mrs. Catherine Durnan of Newport. He has nine grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his loving granddaughter, Shelly. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, December 5, 2007 at Saint Mary's Church on Spring Street, Newport. Burial will follow at St. Columba's Cemetery in Middletown, RI. Calling hours will be held on Tuesday, December 4, from 4:00 to 7:00PM at the O'Neill-Hayes Funeral Home. Memorial donations may be made in his name to the Seamen's Church Institute, 18 Market Square, Newport, RI 02840.
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