Valley Lives - Norman Grant

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the November 25, 2015 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Firefighter who didn't 'sweat the small stuff'

by Ben Bulmer

A pillar of stability and common sense, Norman Grant's strong but calm demeanour meant he kept a cool head when everything was blazing around him. Whether that blaze was an actual fire he'd been fighting that day or just cooling the temper of his wife after she'd had a stressful day in council, Norman Grant's smile shone through his strong, silent personality. This was reassuring not just to his wife and family, but the whole community - it was okay not to "sweat the small stuff."

"He was very patient and caring," said former Chelsea Mayor Judy Grant of her husband of 54 years. "If someone needed something fixed... Norman never said 'no'."

Norman Grant
Born Norman Lett Grant in Ottawa Oct. 8 1935. Norman Grant dedicated his professional and personal life to fighting fires. Whether as a husband, a father, a colleague, or a friend Norman Grant was a pillar of strength and common sense to all that knew him. Photo courtesy Auni Milne.

The couple met at a party at his aunt's house on Chemin Burnett (the same road where the couple ended up living for 54 years) in Chelsea in 1960 and married the following year. Judy Grant is the first to admit her husband's laid-back nature contrasts her own personality, but created a great balance between the pair

"I'm... extremely high tempered and he was always good at saying 'sit down and calm down'. He had everything in perspective."

Born in Ottawa on Oct. 8 1935, Norman Grant carried on in the footsteps of his father and became a firefighter, a career that lasted 35 years.

"That was his life," said Judy Grant. "I'm sure he saw death and terrible things but he never brought it home... His word would be 'this is my job'."

A professional firefighter in Ottawa, Norman Grant's expertise was highly regarded in his many years with the volunteer fire service in Chelsea.

"If we went to a scene, he'd already seen it and done it before," said friend Ernie Tardiff. "He was very confident and sure of what he was doing... it rolled back onto us."

Tardiff spent 37 years in the Chelsea Volunteer Fire Department and worked with Norman Grant from the late seventies onwards. He remembers him as "strong and quiet... with a soft heart."

Tardiff recalls a fire destroying a property just before Christmas and Norman Grant raising money to replace the ruined Christmas presents. "He was so community minded, it was unbelievable."

Former Chelsea Volunteer Fire Service chief Mike Dunlop reiterates Tardiff's comments about Norman Grant's service to the firefighters.

"He brought ideas and he explained and showed us how to do things," he said.

Dunlop recalls asking Norman Grant for help with building a fence. "Norm would say 'do it the best and it will last you'," said Dunlop. "That was 35 years [ago] and the fence still hasn't moved."

Wayne Rostad met "Normie", as he affectionately calls him, in the early seventies.

"He was the kind of guy, if he walked by you and saw you working," said Rostad, "he didn't ask if he could help, he would just jump in, that was his nature." Norman Grant helped Rostad with running The Clog, a wildly popular country music festival. The event, held at Tucker Lake, started in 1979 and raised money for various local charities and was run, in part, by the Low and District Lions Club. For the 17 years the festival lasted, "Norm was my right arm back stage."

"Back stage was a place full of tumultuous movement," said Rostad. "I could be a fairly stressed out cookie back there... when I needed something done, Norm would come and never failed me."

Rostad recalls country singer Barbara Mandrell arriving from Nashville and wanting a new staircase back stage because she was wearing heels and the metal steps were full of small holes. Lost on how to fulfill the star's frivolous demands, Rostad turned to the person he knew could resolve it.

"'Normie, Normie I need a new staircase, she won't go up those stairs'," said Rostad. "So Normie had to build a new set of stairs... he saved me again."

Rostad reiterates the opposite personality traits between a "very outgoing, very strong" Judy Grant and the "quiet, strong, silent type" Norman Grant, but says 'Normie' was a pillar for him and, "I know he was a pillar for Judy."

"She probably came home more than once with a heck of a lot on her mind and Normie was there to absorb it," said Rostad. "He was known to always say to her whenever she was wound up about something, 'Don't sweat the small stuff'."

Judy Grant says in the last six months, the couple had spent every waking hour together giving them the opportunity to "talk and talk and talk."

"We learned a lot about each other," said Judy Grant. "It was like falling in love all over again."

Norman Grant died at age 80 in Ottawa on Nov. 11 2015. He is survived by his wife, Judy Grant, four children, and eight - with another on the way - grandchildren.

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