KEITH JUAN O. Grant had a passion for helping people, a desirable trait for a member of his profession.
Keith was a firefighter, and he was the kind of guy who couldn't wait for his next shift to begin. Next to his family, firefighting was the most important part of his life.
He died last Wednesday of a heart attack. He was 49 and lived in Germantown.
Firefighters are a tight-knit group, as only people who regularly face death themselves and see others suffer horrible injury and death can be. And Keith Grant was highly respected in this brotherhood of the brave.
He was also well-regarded for his cooking.
"He was our mess sergeant," said Capt. John Garrow, his commanding officer at Engine 9, Germantown Avenue and Gorgas Lane, East Mount Airy.
"He was also an excellent firefighter," said Garrow, who had worked with Keith at his previous assignment with Engine 43, 21st and Market streets. "He was a good man. That's the ultimate compliment for a firefighter."
Garrow said Keith was very good at mentoring young firefighters starting out in the department. He also helped teach them to cook, since firefighters take turns preparing food for their units.
Keith Grant was born in Philadelphia. His mother, Bernice Sydnor Grant, died when he was 4, and he was raised by his father, Oscar O. Grant, and stepmother, Carol A. Grant.
He graduated from University City High School in 1975. He was a standout defensive linebacker on the football team, ran track, and played a smooth trombone in the school orchestra. He also played the drums.
He attended Temple University for a year.
Keith worked as an emergency medical technician for a private company, then joined the business department at Moss Rehabilitation Hospital. He taught CPR and other life-saving techniques at Hahnemann University Hospital and Einstein Medical Center.
He joined the Fire Department in 1993.
He spent most of his 14 years with the department at Engine 43 in Center City. He transferred to Engine 9 last April.
Keith also was in demand as a cook at home. He was famous for his chili, macaroni and cheese, lasagna and shepherd's pie, among other delights. He also loved to barbecue in his back yard.
"He loved the holidays," said his sister Gail Vanessa Jackson. "He loved family get-togethers."
The family believes that Keith inherited his skill at cooking from his grandfather Ocie Grant, who was head chef at the restaurant in the old Lit Brothers department store.
As a firefighter, "he loved being there for people in need," Gail said. "He had a real passion for helping people. He had a heart of gold."
Keith was also known for his sense of humor. "He had a mischievous sparkle to him," his sister said.
He enjoyed music, especially R&B, but didn't play his trombone much after high school. In fact, he resisted a request by fellow firefighters that he bring it to the fire station.
Besides his sister, he is survived by his wife, the former Alisa Hill; a daughter, Kyra Monique; three sons, Keith Juan Jade, Elijah James and Jordan Thomas; two other sisters, Cheryl Monique Stevens and Yvette Nicole Julia Green; two brothers, Eric James O. Grant and Oscar Randall O. Grant; and two grandsons, Khyree and Khyeem.
Services: 11 a.m. today at Church of the Holy Apostle and Mediator, 51st and Spruce streets, West Philadelphia. Interment will be in Mount Lawn Cemetery, Sharon Hill. *