William Chase Grant, Jr., fondly known as “Mzee” (Swahili for revered elder), 95, died peacefully in his home on November 28, 2019. He was surrounded by his son, daughter, and several grandchildren. To be home surrounded by family was always his wish. He was born in Baltimore, MD on August 24, 1924 to William Chase Grant, Sr. and Helen Shriver Grant.
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William attended Boys’ Latin and St. James School in Baltimore. While he spent most of his childhood in the Baltimore area, he summered in Hopkinton, New Hampshire and attended several New Hampshire boys’ summer camps. Those summer experiences helped him realize he was in soul and spirit more of a true New Englander, comfortable in the woods and hills of New Hampshire and the Berkshires.
Being a “war years” student at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH, he volunteered for service in World War II mid-way through his education. He served in the Pacific Theater (1943-1946) in the 673rd AAA Machine Gun Battery primarily in the Philippines and New Guinea.
After his honorable service he received his A.B. magna cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1949, and a PhD from Yale University in 1953. Before coming to Williams College in 1956 as an associate professor he had several teaching appointments at Gettysburg College, the College of William & Mary, and Dartmouth College. In 1971 he was named the Samuel Fessenden Clarke Professor of Biology and was chairman of the Biology Department for many, many years, and retired after 35 years of teaching. He was an innovative leader that started to transform education in Biology at Williams to go from only focusing on pre-med requirements and to also focus on what was then a small growing industry of bioscience and biotechnology.
Two yearlong sabbaticals afforded the opportunities as a visiting research scientist at Oxford University (1965) and visiting lecturer at the University of Edinburgh (1972). These experiences bonded the family and engendered the love of travel for future generations.
For nearly 16 summers, he moved his family to Salisbury Cove, ME to work at the Mt. Desert Island Biological Laboratories (MDIBL) to do NIH and NSF grant funded research. He also served on the board as secretary. It was there that he instilled the love of the ocean in his children and created a home away from home that fostered the close-knit family they became.
He served on the board of the Chase Forest and Sanctuaries (NH) and was a founding board member of the New England Tropical Conservatory (VT).
Passions and hobbies, the list is long, not the least of which was as an enthusiast of military history. At one point, he had the largest collection of miniature model soldiers in the United States, including hundreds that he designed, cast, and painted himself.
The love of his life, Joan Armstrong Grant, who he met at 15 years old, was his soulmate up until her premature death in 1986. Dachshunds, a Black Lab and Jack Russell’s (rescues) were by his side and faithful companions all of his life. Rarely a day passed when one of them wasn’t in his lap looking for a good scratch or a nap. Although a very private man, he was always willing to talk to and help friends and family with life’s joys and challenges with his keen intellect and understanding. This was no more true than for his two children who he adored more than anything. His kids spoke with him nearly every day by phone, FaceTime, or in person. The bond is inspirational.
Upon retirement from Williams College he became the great adventurer, planning one to two trips a year. It started with leading a group of Williams Alumni to Kenya where in the evenings he shared his vast biological, environmental, and animal knowledge in the lodges with guests. A side trip that year with Ian to visit Ian’s college homestay families and to the small island of Lamu hooked Mzee on Africa for the rest of his life. Over 25 trips with friends and family to Kenya (many times), Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, as well as India, Nepal, Bhutan, the Artic, and Galapagos Islands. His last trip to Kenya was in November 2009 Hours of recanting stories from all of the travels with those who he went with, met along the way, or who enjoyed sitting with him became almost a daily part of his life, even up until the very end. He loved the impact Africa had on him as a person—both its physical beauty and its people.
William Grant leaves his daughter, Cynthia Grant Tykot (Robert) of Odessa, FL and Williamstown, MA, his son, Ian McLean Grant, of Rye, NH, his four grandchildren, Jeffery N. Tykot, (New York, NY), Matthew W. Tykot (Boston, MA), William D. Grant (Boston, MA), and Elsa F. Grant (Rye, NH).
Mzee was pre-deceased by his wife, Joan Armstrong Grant married for 38 years, when she passed in 1986 at 58 years old; his middle brother, McLean Moen Grant (2018); and youngest brother George Shriver Grant (1993)
There was rarely a day that didn’t end with his favorite cocktail, a martini straight up with 3 olives. It was his signature drink that went well with his wit and love of word games. Every martini in the future will be a great reminder of his spirit.
FUNERAL NOTICE: In lieu of flowers please consider a contribution to either: African Wildlife Foundation. (Send checks to: African Wildlife Foundation, c/o Lindsay Kosnik, VP Development, 1100 New Jersey Avenue SE, 9th Floor, Washington, DC 20003) or online at fundraise.awf.org and put in memory of “William Mzee Grant”. Or to the Jack Russell Rescue. Send checks to: Jacks Galore, 658 Summitt Hill Road, Washington, MA 01233 or online http://www.jacksgalore.org/donations/ please write in memory of “William Mzee Grant”
CELEBRATION OF LIFE The family will host a Celebration of Life and reception on December 29th at 2:00 pm. It will be held in a private venue at the 1896 House restaurant/pub, 866 Cold Spring Rd, Williamstown, MA. To add to the Book of Memories, please visit www.flynndagnolifuneralhomes.com