On the last Sunday of April, Patrick Bonzagni of North Falmouth drove off-Cape to visit his longtime friend Patrick E. Grant at Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was in the midst of battling lymphoma.
Among the items they discussed that day was a party being planned for the 1986 Falmouth High School grad at Mr. Bonzagni’s Beach House Restaurant in North Falmouth. “He said, ‘Yeah, I’ll be down there’ and you know in your heart of hearts looking at him that if he could get down there it would be a miracle,” Mr. Bonzagni said yesterday morning. “He looked really sick. It was one of the worst experiences of my life.”
Less than a week later Mr. Grant, who was 45, would die, unable to see firsthand the outpouring of love and support the community showed to him the past Saturday when hundreds packed Mr. Bonzagni’s restaurant, raising more than $70,000. The money will go to Mr. Grant’s personal expenses and to his and his fiancee, Sarah Norris’s, 1-year-old son, Charles Patrick Grant.
Although the showing was impressive, those interviewed yesterday were not surprised at how much Mr. Grant’s family, friends, and customers—he was the longtime owner of Grant Tree Service in Falmouth—cared for him. “If everyone had a friend like him there would be no issues in this world,” Mr. Bonzagni said. “He was always smiling and telling jokes. And he was always there for you when you needed him, no matter what.”
"If everyone had a friend like him there would be no issues in this world."
Chairman of the Falmouth Board of Selectmen Kevin E. Murphy agreed, calling Mr. Grant “a wonderful human being. He got it. He realized what went around goes around, that the world is a circle and to have a friend is to be a friend. That’s the type of guy he was.”
Mr. Grant came to Falmouth Heights at the age of 5 with his mother, Winifred Grant, his father, the late Edward Grant, and his older sister Drawde (Grant) Geishecker. Since then he had become a fixture in the town, living what Ms. Geishecker said was a full life. “We are so different. I’m so conservative and he lived and embraced life every day,” she said. “He used to say, ‘Every day is a holiday and every meal is a feast. That is how you have to live.’ ... I admired that in him. He just lived each day for what it offered and it kind of makes sense that he died so young. I’m glad he did everything he wanted to do.”
Community Shows Its Love
It is for that free spirit that those who organized this past Saturday’s event—Mr. Bonzagni; Maura L. Aldrich of Woods Hole Road; Lisa S. O’Connell of Shorewood Drive, East Falmouth; and Melissa R. Pacheco of Carriage Shop Road, East Falmouth—that Mr. Grant was so beloved in Falmouth.
And it is why so many individuals and businesses, from the Quarterdeck Restaurant to Eat Your Heart Out Catering to United Liquors, donated everything from food and drink to a variety of items— Red Sox-Yankees tickets, a Ray Bourque autographed hockey stick, Patriots-Jets tickets, a night on Nantucket, and a week’s stay in New Hampshire, among others—that were auctioned off to raise money for the Pat Grant Benefit Account.
“It was amazing,” Ms. Aldrich said. “It truly was a testament to Pat and the kind of person he was.”
He used to say, ‘Every day is a holiday and every meal is a feast. That is how you have to live.’
Perhaps the saddest aspect of the entire evening is that Mr. Grant was not there to witness it. “I was able to visit him in the hospital and he was so excited about the fundraiser,” she said. “He had the flyer for it taped to his hospital wall and he was working on the guest list himself ... He said he would be there and was looking forward to it.”
Her husband, Arthur G. Aldrich III, was also a longtime friend of Mr. Grant’s, and served as a pallbearer at his funeral on Thursday morning where two bucket trucks were situated in front of St. Patrick’s Church forming an arch that the casket was carried through.
After the ceremony the funeral procession went around Grand Avenue and the baseball field in Falmouth Heights—the neighborhood where Mr. Grant was a fixture for decades, and where he was known to throw memorable parties during the Falmouth Road Race—before he was laid to rest at St. Joseph’s Cemetery on Gifford Street.
Mr. Aldrich said that Mr. Grant handled the disease with dignity. “He was very determined,” he said. “He didn’t have any self-pity at all. He had me convinced he was going to come out of this, but the cancer was too aggressive ... He lived life like a winner and went out like a winner. He fought hard.”
Among the greatest attributes that his friends and family said he had was his willingness to help others. Joshua Warner of Veeder Drive, who started working for Mr. Grant a decade ago, can attest to that. “He took me under his wings and showed me the right way in life,” he said. “And he showed me how to do tree work. I learned everything from him, including how to bid jobs at the end.”
Yesterday Mr. Warner and his crew were hard at work, under the moniker of Grant Tree Service, in an effort to carry on Mr. Grant’s legacy.
Despite Mr. Grant’s disease, Mr. Warner said, he continued to work through the pain, answering phone calls, setting up projects and running his business from his hospital bed in Boston. “It was his passion,” he said. “I want to make sure his name and his company never dies.”
The Human Connection
One of the greatest lessons that Mr. Grant taught him, he said, was the importance of connecting with others. “He was just a people person,” he said. “He could have run for selectman in Falmouth. There wasn’t anywhere we went that he didn’t know somebody.”
His affable nature, he said, could be witnessed in the nicknames Mr. Grant bestowed on others. Mr. Warner, who Mr. Grant dubbed Fuji, said he even had nicknames for all the nurses and doctors at Massachusetts General in Boston.
“He was not only my boss, but my friend and I cared about him a lot,” he said.
Anyone wanting to donate to the Pat Grant Benefit Account can do so by sending a check to Rockland Trust at 20 Davis Straits, Falmouth, MA 02540.
Those interested in purchasing a $30 T-shirt made in Mr. Grant's memory can do so by contacting Melissa Pacheco at 774-392-4540. All proceeds from the sale of the shirt go directly to benefit the account.
In that sentiment, his sister and mother said, Mr. Warner is not alone. “I’m in awe of all my brother did. He touched so many lives,” Ms. Geishecker said. “I knew him as a brother, but it was so special to hear so many stories that people went out of their way to come and tell us. It gave me a great amount of comfort. If I could have one more minute with him to tell him that, I would.”
Her own son, Edward, 12, often played basketball with her brother, and looked up to him as a role model.
And also impacted by Mr. Grant’s death has been Hadley, an English black Lab, whom Ms. Grant has adopted as her own. “She is a really nice dog and still looks for him,” Ms. Grant said.
Among the stories she recounted that exemplified her son’s giving spirit was when he traveled to Worcester in 2008 to assist with the ice storm that had devastated the region. “He put up his guys in a hotel or motel and they were up there for a week clearing all those trees because people couldn’t get into their driveways or houses,” she said. “He would go where he was needed and without someone calling, ‘Could you do this?’”
It was just one of the many selfless acts that have been recounted about Mr. Grant by in the days following his death. “He wanted to live and had such a positive attitude about life,” Ms. Grant said. “Some days he had 20 people visiting him at the hospital at different times of the day. Some would linger, some would be there just a few minutes. And to each he would say, ‘Just give me a hug. Give me some love. We’re going to get through this. I’ll be back with you.’ I think that is what made this so hard.”