To listen to John “Red” Grimsley describe himself, he was a “short, fat, bald-headed Irishman.” To listen to his girls (wife Judi, daughters Nita, April, Tami, Charity) he was Superman, Batman, Iron Man, and the Six Million Dollar Man all rolled up in one.
Red was born in Liberal, Kansas in September 1942, to Charles Richard (Dick) and Maida Waunita Grimsley. His early years were spent on a farm several miles out of town, and he attended what is now known as the Old Liberty School, a one-room schoolhouse, with his two older sisters Lynne and Judy. Their house burned down in 1951 and they moved to town where Red started what was to be the first of many businesses just to keep himself occupied and out of trouble. His sisters used to tell a story of his first day in “town school” when his mother took him in to meet the teacher, “This is my son John, he’s a good boy” she said, “but he is really busy.” He mowed lawns, fixed bicycles, and had two paper routes as well as playing football and baseball… he was busy!
Growing up on a farm, Red developed the incredible work ethic we all grew to revere. The family moved to Pampa, Texas when he was a sophomore in high school and from there, he joined the United States Navy in March 1960, he was seventeen. While in the Navy he was a Submariner attached to the USS George Washington, SSBN-598. The “Georgefish,” as she was called, was the world’s first nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine, armed with sixteen long range strategic Polaris missiles and six torpedo tubes. Red chose to sleep in the missile compartment at sea because “it was warm and dark, and nobody bothered him.” His home ports were split between New London, Connecticut and Holy Loch, Scotland. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in August 1963. After the Navy, Red traveled around a bit and settled in Aransas Pass, Texas where he lived with an uncle and spent any free time fishing for “Rat Reds.” He had always wanted to be a welder, so he gravitated to shipyards and welding shops to start honing his skills. It was during this time that he enrolled in a Community College in Corpus Christi where he took classes in Business and American Government.
It was there he met JoAnn Robertson in 1965, fell in love, and married her in 1966. Their love bore four daughters: Nita, April, Tami, and Charity. They were an idyllic couple. To hear Red’s brother, Charles, tell it: they cleared floors wherever they went dancing. To hear their girls tell it, their parents were crazy in love until the day JoAnn lost her battle with cancer on August 12, 1985.
Red then had four girls at home to finish raising, and if ever there was a man for the job, it was him. He never missed a game, a debate, a dance, or anything important to his girls. He was there for the unimportant as well. April describes how it was not unusual to be out on the ballfield at practice after school and look up to see her dad sitting on the bleachers watching. He never missed an opportunity to be there for his girls—ever. We all joke that mom must have told dad after four girls, “That’s it. I guess it’s not in the cards for you to have a son.” “No problem,” he said; put ball gloves on us, taught us to fish, put us on motorcycles and tomboys we were.
April said one of the many amazing things about her dad that she’ll never forget and taught her an important part of parenthood, is that she cannot recall a conversation with her dad in adulthood (and likely many in childhood) where he didn’t tell her he was proud of her. EVERY single conversation they had ended in how proud he was of her and how much he loved her. And they weren’t just words, everything he did expressed how proud he was proud of all his girls and how much he loved them.
Red and JoAnn taught their girls the importance of family, and the girls taught their children the same. Maybe it was losing their mother at such young ages, or just Red’s constant reminders that family is first, likely both, but the four girls who fought all the time as kids, driving their poor mother crazy, grew to be best friends. Red would say, “I’m glad you girls are so close, but it’s a bit scary that if you cut one you all bleed.” His girls would remind him who created that.
Charity loved her dad's unwavering support and sense of entrepreneurship. He was a risk-taker and if he wanted something, he made it happen. He encouraged independence and self-reliance in his girls, she is eternally grateful for it. Charity will strive every day to make sure her dad's legacy will live on through her own endeavors and in how she raises her son, Avery.
Tami laughs when she recalls her dad was so involved in her high school years; he was actually in her senior yearbook more than she was. She especially loves that dad taught us his love of sports. To her, there was nothing better than going to a local ball game with him. She loved that time together, as they cheered for the home team. She also loved how her dad always made time to spend with his girls individually, and loved that we all knew we were dad’s favorite because he made us each feel like his favorite.
Tami also feels incredibly grateful she was able to give dad a son in her husband, Moe, and Moe a father, in dad. The two of them growing to truly be father and son over their 30+ years as family. They enjoyed hunting, fishing, building, riding (motorcycles, horses, mules, tractors, you name it) being mechanics together, and just being a wonderful support for one another.
Nita reflects the most important value her dad instilled in her was the significance of family. There was never anything more vital and she has him to thank for that today.
When we were growing up, we always had game night. Every week the family would sit around the table or on the living room floor in a circle playing board games. We played Aggravation, Sorry, Parcheesi, Glory, Blitz and many others. It was always a very special time of family sharing and she has passed this tradition on to her kids. She drives everyone crazy with her constant desire to play games!!
Mom and dad always took the girls on camping trips when they were kids. They camped in the mountains in Utah, Colorado and British Columbia….and many more places. We must have camped at every one of the thousand lakes on the Grand Mesa. Those camping trips are such great memories for Nita. In turn, as an adult, she’s raised her kids camping their entire lives. Camping is so therapeutic for her. It brings her such peace and takes her to a time that she cherishes with her family. We always took the boat out on the lake, went fishing and sat around the campfire singing, playing games and cooking outside. She hopes her kids will raise their children camping, just the way she grew up and the way they did too, thanks to her parents!!
Nita recalls dad was a very stern traveler. We took vacations three or four times every year to Texas. Either to our grandmother’s house in the Texas panhandle or to our other grandparents’ house in southern Texas, on the Mexican border. These are the source of very fond memories for her. When our dad was younger, traveling with four kids, he wasn’t one to believe the journey was just as important as the destination. He just wanted to get there. She can’t imagine why, with four screaming kids in the van. We only stopped for gas. If anyone needed to pee, you better do it when filling up or you would be holding it until we needed gas again. There would be no sight-seeing or unnecessary dilly-dallying!! We barely noticed any scenery along the way. However, when he was an older traveler and we were all grown, suddenly he wanted to stop at every Dairy Queen, every scenic overlook, and every antique shop along the way. Getting there wasn’t nearly as important as enjoying the scenery and cherishing the journey; the destination will still be there in a couple of hours!! Funny, Nita raised her kids the same way—pee when we get gas or hold it. Now, as adults, we love and appreciate a road trip every chance we get!!
Nita respected her dad more than any human being that she ever met. He was the most amazing man and father. She will cherish every memory they shared and only hope to pass on the example that he set for her. Nita said, “Until I see you again dad, I will remember every moment that we shared. I love you more than life!!”
Red was an auctioneer when he and Judi met, he was looking for a new graphic artist and ended up at the print shop where Judi worked. A few years later he decided to reestablish Palisade Realty because selling real property at auction was becoming the thing to do in the existing economy. He was looking for sales associates and talked Judi into going to Real Estate school, she liked auctions much more than real estate. They had a good working relationship and began spending time together. They were married in 1992 and spent their spare time camping, hunting, and fishing together on “the mountain” aka, the Grand Mesa.
Red worked during the week as a contract welder for an aggregate company at night keeping their rock crushing screens and equipment in working condition, prior to that he worked for a utility construction company and met their soon-to-be business partner. In 1995 they began a construction company doing the same thing they had done together before and operated the business from Red and Judi’s home. In 1999 he and Judi bought another house in Palisade because the company had taken over their spare bedroom, the dining room and Judi was threatening to move his recliner out to make room for another desk. He bought a couple of horses and a mule (ok, several mules) and a “wagon” and tack and harness, and he and his son-in-law Moe became mule skinners. That must go down as one of the best periods of his life.
Fishing was the one thing he never grew tired of. The first time Red & Judi went to Alaska was in 2002 and he went back every year he could until his dementias stopped him.
Red was officially diagnosed with both Alzheimer’s Dementia and Vascular Dementia in 2016 and with Judi’s help he spent two years following the “Bredesen Protocol” an intense preventive program using diet, nutritional supplements, and specific cognitive exercises. They spent Christmas 2018 in Denver with the kids and grandkids. It was there that they announced that he was discontinuing the protocol. Reactions were mixed but he was still capable of making his own decisions. The disease progressed. It seems his was an especially difficult case and rough. To see the rock of the family, the oak of a man, diminish in cognition was one of life’s great tragedies. But he was our hero, and he never stopped being our hero.
Red passed in memory care on November 26, 2021; ironically, JoAnn’s would-be 75th birthday. She was calling him home. Although he will be missed more than any words could express, we know he is with God, whom he worshipped and praised. He’s with his love, JoAnn, his parents, Dick and Waunita, his sister, Judy, JoAnn’s parents: Mary and Paul, his niece, Krista, and nephew, Luke, and riding on Ash, the mare he gave his granddaughter, Britni or “Buttercup,” as he called her, more than 20 years ago and had to be put down just days before Red passed.
There will never be another Red/Dad/PaPa quite like him. Many of us will try, some will succeed in ways, but likely will fall short of the person who was so admired, respected, and loved for 79 years. We know you have your good brain back and are free of suffering and this gets us through the days and nights. Until we meet again, kiss mom, know that we are all so proud of who you were and that you are very loved.
John “Red” Grimsley is survived by his wife of 30 years, Judi; his daughters, Nita, April, Tami (and husband, Moe) and Charity (and husband, Matt); grandchildren: Ashli and Jesse (Nita’s children); Joshua and Charity (April’s children); Britni (Tami and Moe’s daughter), and Avery (Charity and Matt’s son); and great grandchildren: Liam Jason (Ashli and Billy’s son); Lorene Mae (Joshua and Emily’s daughter); Hadley and Pietro (Britni and Casey’s children), and his close friend, Sam Smiley.
He is also survived by his sister and her husband, Lynn and Ted Krebs and their daughter, Marcia and husband, Phil Reis. Marcia’s children, Joshua, Jonathan, and Krislyn. His brother, Charles and his wife, Gaylene Grimsley. Charles’s children: Charles, John, Joshua, and Rachel. JoAnn’s brother and wife, Paul and Virginia “Ginny” Robertson, and their daughters, Karen, and her husband Doug Frank; Beth, and her husband, Jonathan Prykryl.
His enormous personality, wealth of selflessness and friendly smile will be sorely missed by all his business colleagues, friends, and his family. A celebration of life service will be conducted at Connection Church, 655 North 1st Street, Grand Junction on Monday, January 3rd at 10:30 AM and he will be laid to rest with full military honors at the Grand Junction Veterans Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the National Alzheimer’s Association.