Home is the hunter

Born in 1927, John Edward Grey grew up in Auckland, New Zealand, at first in the city. When his father retired from the merchant marine service, the family moved south to the farmland and purchased a dairy farm. John’s teenage years were dominated by cows and by two half-draft horses, a sweet gelding and a mean mare. Perhaps as a result, he apprenticed with a trade school and studied engineering.

John lived an amazing life, full of adventure and verve. At age 18 he moved to Australia, escaping the farm forever, and served in the police force. That didn’t last long, either, and he almost never told stories of his time as a copper. The only story he did tell ended with the line, “I never knew there was that much blood in a human body.”

Next he took a job on a tramp steamer and sailed all over the world, including tropical Pacific islands and other places he never took his wife to. At one point he caught some deathly tropical fever and was told by a doctor that he had mere days to live. Irritated, John said he pulled through just to spite the jerk. Unfortunately, the only memento he brought home was toenail fungus.

He was in England for the Queen’s coronation. All he told his wife was that it rained. That night he stayed out having fun and returned to his rented room after his landlady was in bed. Unable to enter, John hung around out on the street until two bobbies happened by on their rounds. They kindly let him spend the night in the pokey and served him English muffins and tea for breakfast.

John lived in Canada for seven years while awaiting the legal right to enter the United States. During that time, he served in the Royal Canadian Air Force, specializing in electronic counterespionage during the Cold War. No photos of him in uniform survive, nor do any of his sergeants.

Upon receiving his green card, John emigrated to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and looked good on the beach. This we have the photos to prove. He worked for an engineering company, finally making use of his education, joined Mensa, and peddled Amway. He also took singing lessons, developing his naturally good voice into a classical operatic baritone, capable of turning heads and stopping traffic. Although he sang a few gigs in nightclubs, he didn’t like the lifestyle and soon dropped out of the club life, taking his glorious voice with him.

In 1972, John accepted a job as a lecturer at the University of Houston’s main campus. However, he quickly grew bored with the university scene and with Mensa, commenting that “those people tripped over their own IQs.” He took a position with Metrix Instrument Company in west Houston, a firm that manufactured equipment that monitored vibration in chemical and hydrocarbon processing. Finally finding an employment home, he rose to test engineer, managing quality control for systems worth millions of dollars.

He met his future wife in 1986 when they both joined the same Star Trek fan club and she heard him sing. After two years of dating, which mostly consisted of running around various events in homemade Starfleet uniforms, John burned out on his career, sold everything, and moved to West Texas, where he took a job repairing pump jacks while clearing his head. After a year of cactus and mesquite thorns and rattlesnakes and his beloved white Nissan pickup, he returned to Houston. He and his sweetheart were married in 1992.

The one thing John promised her was that she would never be bored. He didn’t lie. They settled in Spring Branch, on Houston’s near west side, and John returned to Metrix for a few more years. They vacationed in Big Bend, the Guadalupe Mountains, McKittrick Canyon, Fort Davis, and Alpine. He retired in 1995 and pretended to keep house while his wife continued to work.

In 2001 they moved north to Humble. Bored with housekeeping, or pretending to housekeep, John took a job as greeter with Walmart, using his sunny disposition and sweet smile. It didn’t take long for his manager to decide John’s gorgeous voice should also be utilized, and he was transferred to receptionist, answering the store phone and making announcements over the loudspeaker system. But it was his fine, intelligent mind that finally won out, and he transferred into the back office, assisting in the hiring process.

In 2005 he and his wife attended the Humble Police Department’s Citizens’ Police Academy, and John rediscovered his interest in police work. Leaving Walmart, he joined the Humble PD’s records department as a file clerk, only leaving their employ when the records were finally digitized. Returning home for the last time, he ceased pretending to keep house and instead began writing a novel, sadly left unfinished.

In April of 2014, he suffered a fall at home. Although in great pain, he refused to see a doctor for ten days, until his wife realized he was babbling nonsense and dragged him to the emergency room. He was diagnosed with a fractured L1 vertebra which was surgically repaired, but John never quite recovered his verve and style. He required a walker for the remainder of his days and rarely sang for his wife.

In late October of 2016, John had a stroke. Although he recovered well enough to use his walker again with assistance, his smile dimmed further and he didn’t always appreciate the efforts made by his physical and occupational therapists. 2017 saw a parade of illnesses, emergency room visits, and hospital stays, and his beautiful voice fell to a whisper.

By June he’d had enough, and he told his wife he was dying. She refused to believe him and fought to the end, but as usual, John got his way. On October 6 they spent his final hours at home, holding hands and staring into each other’s eyes, before he fell asleep at sundown, then passed into unconsciousness, then passed peacefully away.

On this continent, he’s survived by his wife. The situation with his family in New Zealand, including his elder sister and her husband, and various cousins, is unknown.

I’ll love you forever, my Garfield.

GoFundMe to help cover John’s funeral expenses.

UNDER the wide and starry sky
  Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
  And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you ‘grave for me:
  Here he lies where he long’d to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
  And the hunter home from the hill.
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