Twin Cities businessman visits legendary Vikings coach Bud Grant two days before death, takes final photo
On Saturday morning, Grant died at his home in Bloomington at the age of 95.
On Thursday afternoon, Twin Cities real estate agent and businessman Buddy Becker visited legendary Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant at his home in Bloomington for what he had expected to be a routine meeting.
Becker, who shares a home in Blaine with former Vikings star quarterback Tommy Kramer and is involved in setting up many functions involving former players, had been talking to the elderly Grant and his live-in partner Pat Smith, about whether Grant might be better served moving into a one-level residence rather than being at his multi-level home.
“The last couple of weeks, we had been talking,’’ Becker said Saturday. “On Thursday, I talked to him and he said, ‘I appreciate everything that you are doing, but this is my home.’ He said, ‘I want to die here.’ He said, “I’ve lived a good life, and my kids are all taken care of and my grandkids are all taken care of. I made sure of all of that.”’
On Saturday morning, Grant died at his home at the age of 95. Becker said that on Thursday, despite what Grant had said about dying, he had no inkling that the end was near. But Becker said he learned Friday that Grant had begun to feel ill.
Becker said his visit with Grant on Thursday was not unlike some of his previous recent meetings. He said he talked to Grant, who coached the Vikings from 1967-83 and in 1985, about sports, including basketball. Grant had once played in the NBA with the Minneapolis Lakers.
“We started talking about the Timberwolves and the Lakers and he brought me into a side room and showed me an article,’’ Becker said of a framed clipping from Grant’s NBA days from 1949-51. “I made a little video of him talking about it and then I took a picture. … It was the last picture that anybody took of him.”
Bud Grant’s son, Mike Grant, the football coach at Eden Prairie, said Saturday the picture of his father “probably is” the last photo taken of him.
Mike Grant said he last saw his father Wednesday and last spoke to him on the phone Thursday. Despite his father’s advanced age, he called his death “a shocker.”
Mike Grant said no official cause of death has been listed to his knowledge, and there won’t be an autopsy, but that it was related to his heart.
“He was awake and he was up and just had a heart attack,’’ said Mike Grant, who said that occurred at about 9:30 a.m. and that his father was pronounced dead by paramedics at 10:14 a.m. “His heart stopped working. I think it just wore out. He was not in pain.”
Grant had been scheduled to attend a retirement party Thursday night for Vikings public relations official Bob Hagan but ended up not going. Becker had expected Grant to attend the Minnesota Deer and Turkey Classic on Saturday at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, and said he was going to be involved in an event with Kramer and former Vikings defensive tackle Henry Thomas.
“On Friday, Pat called me and said, ‘Bud’s not feeling well,’’’ Becker said. “So he didn’t go to the Thursday (event) and she said, ‘I don’t think he’s going to make it (Friday). Don’t worry about it, he’ll be fine.’ And then (Saturday) morning I called to see how he was doing, and Pat was in tears and the paramedics were there, and it’s sad.”
Becker said there had been discussions about how it might be easier for Smith to help take care of Grant if he moved into a “one-level place.” Mike Grant said he never got any indication his father wanted to do that.
“My dad was going to stay where he was comfortable,’’ he said. “I’m sure you like to have familiar things around you, all his family.”
Becker said it made an impact on him that Grant on Thursday spoke so openly about death.
“He said (about moving into a one-level place that), ‘I don’t want to do that. This is where I want to die. This is where I want to be,’’’ Becker said.
Becker said Grant said “all my friends are gone, they’ve all passed.” But he emphasized that the legendary coach was “happy and content” on Thursday and talked about having “lived a great life.”
Mike Grant said the family is planning soon to have a private service for Grant. Then he said the plan is for the Vikings to have a “public celebration.”
“We just haven’t figured out a lot of things, when things are available, what venues are available to make it so more people can go,’’ he said. “I think our family’s view is we shared our dad with everyone.”
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