This past weekend the Caribbean community gathered to say a last farewell to Joseph Oswald Clarendon Grant, a community stalwart who passed away on August 14th in Toronto at the age of 86.
To those who crossed his path he was simply known as Joe, and was the second of four children born in Mahaica Village, Guyana, South America to the late Muriel and Samuel Grant.
Joe Grant came to Canada in 1965 with his wife Agnes and continued his teaching career that began as a primary school teacher 1950s after graduating from high school in what was then British Guiana. In 1957 he obtained his teacher’s certificate at the Guyana Government Training College, attended the University of the West Indies in Jamaica and Trinidad, got married in 1959 and came to Canada six years later.
He continued his career in teaching while at the same time attending the University of Toronto as a part-time student. During this period Joe was promoted from classroom teacher to Vice-Principal and subsequently to Principal. In June 1977, he obtained his PhD from the University of Buffalo (SUNY).
“Guyana’s loss was Canada’s gain” is certainly true of Joe Grant; Guyana didn’t simply lose another educated man and educator, they lost a sophisticate and humanitarian who had a taste for the arts. He was a musician; played the piano and organ. That love of music and the arts no doubt played a part in his decision to go into the Caribbean style night club/restaurant business; he acquired the popular Danforth Avenue night club, Cutty’s Hideaway. Cutty’s became his personal project when he retired from teaching.
At Cutty’s, Joe Grant’s love of music coalesced with his abiding commitment to the Caribbean community in Toronto. A number of musicians attended his final farewell and spoke fondly of Joe Grant’s generosity. He provided a home for their music and never failed to open Cutty’s door and wallet to budding Caribbean entertainers; Cutty’s was one of the earliest venues for the calypso tents and visiting performers from the Caribbean. His generosity extended to the promotion of worthy causes like charitable fundraisers and scholarships for the youth of the community.
In her eulogy, his daughter Joy attested to his commitment to his family and friends. She highlighted her father’s quiet, understated personality; he never needed to speak to gain the respect of his family and community; his demeanor was enough to command respect. He was a diplomat who could have followed in the footsteps of his late brother Cedric who represented Guyana in a number of diplomatic postings including the United Nations.
Joy gave an example of her father at his diplomatic best: she said that on one occasion, she was hosting a show called The Kingdom of Soca when the police showed up. She called her father at Cutty’s who arrived and quietly handled the police situation… “and the party continued. My dad’s example of business acumen and diplomacy.” Many a denizen at Cutty’s knew exactly what she was talking about.
Such was the man who rightly earned the respect of the Caribbean community that showed up in numbers to see him off last Saturday.
Joe leaves behind his beloved wife Agnes, his loving children Sean and Joy, sisters, nephews, nieces, in-laws, cousins, friends, and a legacy of a life well lived.