Centenarian invested his life in farming

Published 1:08 pm Saturday, September 7, 2013

COURTLAND—A few days before his 103 birthday on Aug. 29, Hugo Grant could be found watching a baseball game in his room at the Courtland Health and Rehabilitation Center. At the same time, he was wearing a cap featuring the logo of his favorite team, the New York Yankees.

“That’s my favorite, but they’re in trouble this year. They’re starting to let me down,” Grant said. In all his years, though, he never went to a game.

“No, but I kept up with it,” Grant said, adding he’s also a fan of the Washington Redskins for football and Philadelphia 76ers for basketball.

Asked if he ever expected to live so long, Grant paused for a moment, shook his head and said, “No, and that’s what bothers me.”

Born to Rosa Grant at the home of his grandfather, Richmond Grant, in 1910, he was an only child.

“My momma didn’t want anyone else. I don’t fault her…I was enough,” Grant said.

He seemed to recall there might have been a half-sister on the side of his father. Grant could only remember the name of Stephens for his dad.

He himself never married, but would not say why.

For most of his life, though, farming has been Grant’s career.

“When he was a young man, he worked for my daddy and uncle, Rufus Drake Sr. and J.T.,” said Rufus “R.E.” Drake Jr. of Statesville, about five miles outside of Newsoms.

“He was born out here or on the Joyner farm in 1910,” Drake added. “He’s always been out here.”

“There weren’t no free time,” Grant remembered about farm life then.

But there was at least time enough to learn how to drive when he was 17, a skill that would come in use many years later.

“My uncle died and left me with a car, a 1925 Model Ford,” he said.

Meanwhile, for many years, mules and horses were used to work the land.

Drake said that in the early years of the Great Depression – 1931 or 1932 – Grant moved to Suffolk.

Grant said through an uncle there he found work at a basket-making factory in the lower end of Main Street.

When he returned about 20 years later, Grant was back at the farm, this time working for the younger Drake and his son, Roger.

“My dad told me to give him a job,” Drake added.

The difference was that Grant had to learn to use a tractor, and that’s what he did.

“When stuff had to be done, he did them no matter the weather,” said Drake, adding that Grant worked on the farm for several more decades.

The move to the Courtland center was in 2007 when Grant wasn’t able to walk anymore, said Drake.

“We try to go by every week or two to see him,” he added.

Grant said he never saw service in the military.

“I was too young for World War I and too old for World War II,” he said.

Speaking of history, Grant recalled watching the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on television.

“He was a man who fought for us,” he said.

Grant is a member of Mt. Gilead African Methodist Episcopal Church. His grandfather’s name is on the first stained-glass window on the right-hand said, he added.

But, Grant said, “I ain’t never been a saint. I take it as it comes.”