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Sunday, September 26, 2021
The Urquhart-Murphy Funeral Home
At home, surrounded with the love of his family, Alfred (Al) L. Grant, Jr. passed away peacefully in West Warwick, RI, on 24 September 2021. One year ago, Al had returned to Rhode Island (his home for thirty years until 1994) with his wife, Vivian, to be closer to family after enjoying his retirement in Venice, FL for twenty-six years.
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Al’s career brought him to Rhode Island, but his early life and character were shaped in small-town Upstate New York. His mother, M. Ruth (Martin) Grant, and his father, Alfred L. Grant, Sr. were both raised in villages in the Mohawk Valley area. Al was proud of his family history which traced, on his father’s side, to his grandfather’s (W.D. Grant) emigration from Scotland to Canada before settling in Newport, NY (a village founded by two Bowen brothers from Newport, RI) where he became a successful global producer/wholesaler/distributor of Oneida and Herkimer County cheese. His cheese warehouse, which opened in 1894, was the first in the United States and the first to be refrigerated, in 1904, after W.D. brought electricity to his village in 1898. Al took great pleasure in learning about these and other parts of his family background and in the relations created through this research with local historians in Newport and the Inverness area of Scotland.
After his birth and very early years in Utica, NY, Al’s family moved a mile, across the Sauquoit Creek, to the village of New Hartford. Al’s character, open, straightforward, and unpretentious, was largely formed in this village environment. Up to his passing, he would engagingly recall the people from this early part of his life … the friends, the parents of his friends, what the fathers did for a living… a world where people knew one another well. This is where he developed his gift of being comfortable with people of all walks of life … where people were valued solely for the quality of their characters.
Al graduated from New Hartford High School, as the popular and trustworthy vice president of his class, three weeks after the D-Day Invasion in June 1944. Lifetime relationships had been formed here with both teachers and classmates. He would bring his older children around for periodic visits with his most influential teacher when visiting the area, and he and Vivian greatly enjoyed attending his 50th class reunion.
Upon graduation, Al worked in the accounting office of the New York Central Railroad in the grand Union Station in Utica. Then, days after his 18th birthday, Al entered military service at the US Navy Training Station Sampson (on the eastern shore of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes Region). He was very proud to have been named the Honor Man for his recruit company upon completion of basic training in May 1945. He went on to serve at the Bainbridge, MD Naval Station until one year after the end of the War at Bainbridge, MD. Al’s intelligence and trustworthiness received perhaps no greater recognition than being entrusted with officers’ money to wager at the local horse track. He happily also recounted the honor of handing Stan Musial his last Navy paycheck before Stan resumed his Hall of Fame career for the 1946 season.
After his August 1946 discharge, Al enrolled at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida which was an easy drive from his parents’ winter home in Homosassa Springs. There, on the beautiful, Frank Lloyd Wright-designed campus, he pursued, in no order, his studies in business administration, his passion for golf, and his pool-shooting and card games skills. With such a busy schedule, Al would recount how breakfast was typically an orange plucked off one of the campus trees while running to classes. During the summer months of his last college years, he pursued a young woman back home, Katherine Murphy, who had graduated in 1948 from Nazareth College and worked as an RN Clinical Instructor at Faxon Hospital Nursing School in Utica. A few months after his May 1950 graduation, with a B.S. in Business Administration and a Certificate in Professional Baseball Administration, Al and Kay were married in January 1951. The families were known to each other by both having roots in Newport, NY. Al recounted how, as a child, his father (known to all as Foxy) upon learning through the old village network of Kay’s father’s death (leaving her mother with nine children) would stop from time to time at her house on Oneida Street in Utica with a box of food for the family. Al would be told to bring the box to the front door, ring the bell, and run back to the idling car. Al absorbed the lesson well: for him, generosity was not for recognition; it was simply the right thing to do for one’s neighbors.
Al had begun his career after graduation with the Household Finance Corporation. During these early years, Al and Kay, amid his career-enhancing moves to Rochester, Lockport, and Menands, NY, and Natick, MA, found sufficient time to raise three boys, Douglas, Bob, and Al (Al, Jr. having cracked under Foxy’s relentless pressure to gain naming rights). Despite the “funny accent”, the young family quickly became favorites in the unfamiliar Italian American culture of their Natick neighborhood, at a time when regional and ethnic cultural differences were quite pronounced. After three years in Natick, Al left Household for a new opportunity with the Providence, RI-based Consumer Acceptance Corporation, a similar consumer finance company. This brought with it a move to Charlotte, NC where Al was installed as a regional director for the Carolinas and Tennessee. Al was a little late to recognize the even more profound regional differences of culture to be experienced in this move. He recently recounted how, at a luncheon at a Charlotte civic organization, he responded to his introduction with a “joke” about his gratitude for the welcome despite being “a Yankee, a Republican, and a Catholic.” He quickly realized his misreading of the room when the clinking of silverware ended in stony silence. In these pivotal years in the South of 1963-1964, this gathering fully represented the still operable Dixiecrat, Jim Crow South. Al, again, was not fully prepared for the response of the Ku Klux Klan when local representatives, dressed in full Klan regalia in the middle of the afternoon, walked into one of his branches to discuss Al’s recent hiring of a Black candidate for a neighboring town’s office. The conference was brief, concluding with a whipping of the office counter with chains, but did not result in the Klan’s desired outcome. Despite these clear moral lapses of his background, Al became a very popular neighbor in his new community. His sons, in turn, learned much from him about tolerance and respect for human rights.
A promotion to head the personnel department of Consumer Acceptance brought the family back north in 1964 where they settled in Warwick, RI. Kay’s sudden death in 1968 left Al with three young boys amid an acquisition of his company by Dial Finance Company (out of Des Moines, IA). Al prevailed during these difficult times: Dial recognized that they would be “fortunate to retain Al’s services” and he became reacquainted with a former colleague, Vivian Frasier, who had moved to Texas with her children, Guy and Carla. Al and Vivian were married in April 1969, and the “yours, mine, ours” theme was completed with Leah’s birth in April 1970. Within a short time, Al adopted Guy and Carla. Guy was lost in a tragic accident in 1980.
After long service with Norwest Financial Corporation (which had acquired Dial), Al retired in 1992. He left a well-recognized legacy of people development. Both Norwest’s President and Chairman wrote warm letters recognizing Al’s retirement and his ability to develop young people in the organization (which by now included his own son, Al, III). He delivered a stellar performance for this new region for Norwest, consistently coaching managers to “Star Performer” levels, despite his region’s very difficult economic environment. He created a cadre of competent leaders who went on to their own successful careers. Once again, he developed enduring friendships with those both below and above his level on the org chart.
Al and Vivian brought their retirement game to Venice, Florida in 1994 to enjoy the weather, the opportunity for year-round golf, and an active social lifestyle. They quickly became the center of the Rhode Island diaspora in Venice. Al played club golf competitively on his “senior tour” up until his late 70s. He continued to enjoy the game well into his eighties. In addition, he had more time to fish (including a wonderful fly-fishing expedition to Montana streams). The pleasures of golf and fishing, and socialization, returned him to skills first developed at the Cedar Lake Club in Clayville, NY. Early childhood memories of his parents’ camp on this jewel of a lake outside of Utica remained strong throughout his life and, undoubtedly, contributed to his choice of retirement location in Venice. Ultimately, it was the desire to be close to family that brought them from their lovely, lakeside home back to Rhode Island last fall.
Woven into this rich fabric of life was the interest in people and the delight of their company. No matter what the activity… raising a family, golf, fishing, cards, pool shooting, bowling, leading people, volunteering as a vestry member in his Rhode Island church, delivering “meals on wheels”, and many others … his greatest interest, from his early, small-town years on, was in knowing peoples’ stories. Included in Al’s “people” were the dogs he raised over the years, the last thirteen years with his beloved “Chrissie.”
In addition to his wife, Vivian, Al is survived by his brother, Jack (Temple, TX), and five surviving children:
Rev. W. Douglas Grant (Jamestown, RI)
Bob Grant (Warwick, RI) and his wife, Mimi
Alfred L. Grant, III (Narragansett, RI) and his wife, Judi Carla Shaw (Brunswick, ME), and her husband, Randy Leah Grant (San Mateo, CA).
His seven grandchildren:
(Bob & Mimi)
Thomas Grant (East Greenwich, RI) and his wife, Brooke
Nathan Grant (Naval Station Bahrain) and his wife, Tomoko
Shaina Alarcon (Geneva, Switzerland) and her husband, René
(Al & Judi)
Alex Grant, MD (Princeton, NJ) and his wife, Noha Grant, MD
Kady Grant, NYC
(Carla & Randy)
Ali Shaw (and her fiancé, Joe Rosshirt)
Haley Shaw (and her fiancé, Tom Fitzgerald)
His six great-grandchildren:
(Tom and Brooke): Lilian and Owen Grant
(Nathan and Tomoko): Shou Grant
(Shaina and René): Mateo and Alejandro Alarcon
(Alex and Noha): Dahlia Grant
Donations in memory of Al to these organizations would be well appreciated:
Venice Area Mobile Meals, Inc.
920 Tamiami Trail S
Venice, FL 34285
VNA of Care New England
51 Health Lane
Warwick, RI 02886
At the request of the family, funeral services will be private. Thank you.
The professional staff at Urquhart-Murphy Funeral Home is dedicated to giving you the best care. They will assist you with your entire funeral, memorial and cremation needs. They also have Pre-Planning Programs and an Aftercare Coordinator to assist you and your family through the grieving process. It's never easy to lose a loved one. For families and relatives, the period of time between a death and the final disposition is a period of considerable confusion. They hope this visit to the website will help you answer questions and learn more about their services and programs. They are here for you in your time of need.
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