Nov. 16, 2012
To the editor:
To the good people of Fairbanks, I write this letter with both sadness at the recent death of my nephew John Grandstaff, and gratitude to the many people who had befriended him. I was quite amazed at the response his death aroused and many of the letters that were written were kind and thoughtful. All of his family appreciate the generosity shown to our John, and I am writing also on their behalf.
He was a lost soul and had disappeared from our lives for the past 11 years. All our attempts to learn of his whereabouts were fruitless, as he did not wish to be found. The tragedy of his short life was his mental illness and his refusal of all help. The celebration of his life resides in his extraordinary capacity to live on his own terms and his passion for peace in the world around him. He felt at odds with society in general and only wanted to live in harmony with nature. Whether he discovered that goal we can only surmise. But if he remained in your city for 10 years he must have found solace.
John came from a good family who loved him. His mother graduated from Vassar College and his father from West Point. His father served two tours in Vietnam and worked for the State Department in Thailand for many years. John’s paternal great uncle was a top executive at NASA during the “space race” and his paternal grandfather was a WWII hero. His maternal grandfather was an electrical engineer who designed the electronics for the first space capsules, and his maternal grandmother was an opera singer.
John’s potential was astounding, and his intelligence, his charisma and his empathy were his finest attributes. At some point in his life, however, his inner demons took our John, and we still grieve his loss from that time. His death is the denouement of a tragic but heroic life, and we thank you for your caring.