'A plain good person'
Whether they worked for him, served on a board with him or just lived in the Red Wing community, people seem to have the same thing to say about Jim Grantman: he was a genuinely good person.
"This guy was nothing but amazing," said Randy Juliar, one of Grantman's former employees. "He had a heart of gold."
"Just an absolute real, real, real gentleman," added Joe Goggin, who served on the Red Wing Area Fund Board with Grantman. "He gave a lot — not only of his resources, but of himself."
Grantman owned the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Red Wing for more than 30 years. He also served on several community boards and supported numerous groups and organizations. He died Saturday at age 88.
Grantman was born April 9, 1925, in Lake City, according to his obituary. Grantman's father started a bottling company in Lake City before moving the business and his family to Red Wing in the late 1930s, said Rob Patton, branch manager for Viking Coca-Cola Bottling Co.
The family business partnered with Coke in 1942, and Grantman bought the business from his father in the early 1970s. Patton said he worked for Grantman for five years before Grantman sold the bottling company to Viking in June 2005.
"Working for him was a great experience. He touched the lives of a lot of people in many ways," Patton said. "There's no doubt he was a special man."
That's a statement that Juliar, who worked for Grantman for four years in the early 1970s, echoed.
"I was lucky he was my first boss," he said. "He was a good guy."
In addition to working right alongside his employees on the bottling line, Grantman also did what he could to help his employees in their personal lives. An R-E editorial written in 1995 — after Grantman was named Red Wing's Neighbor by the Kiwanians — said Grantman didn't hesitate to hire someone "with a troubled past, giving physical, mental and spiritual guidance."
Juliar added that Grantman's door was always open to anyone who needed advice.
"I don't think a person could count how many people he mentored in his life," Juliar said. "If you had some decisions to make or just wanted to talk .... Even if you didn't see him for five years, it was like you saw him every day."
Juliar said a couple times a year, Grantman took his young employees to plays, dinners and concerts in the metro area and gave classic books as gifts.
"He's a very intelligent person," Juliar said. "I think he just wanted kids and people just to grow and know things, expose them to things they might never be exposed to."
But it wasn't just the way that Grantman treated his employees that made him stand out. He also donated generously — and usually anonymously — to several community organizations, including civic groups, schools, churches and the arts.
"You knew if there was an event going on, Jim Grantman would be involved somehow," said Char Henn, former executive director of the Goodhue County Historical Society. Grantman served on the society's board and the society's fundraising committee.
But Grantman never wanted credit for his donations.
"It was never about Jim. It was always about Red Wing," Goggin said. "I don't think we really realize all the support he gave to our community without boasting about it or just doing a lot of things behind the scenes."
Grantman was also a member of numerous organizations, including the Sister Cities Commission and the Lions Club. He was very active at First Presbyterian Church. An R-E article written in 1995 said Grantman's civic and community activities totaled 378.
"He's just a plain good person," Juliar said.
"Red Wing is going to be a poorer community for not having him in it," Henn added. "He was willing to support so many organizations and projects. And I don't think we'll see that again."