Obituary for Grant Burrows, Santa Barbara High School Class of 1986

In Spring 1984, three candidates ran for Santa Barbara High School’s ASB Vice President position for AY 1984-85, which had primary responsibility for running the student legislature. Rising junior Danielle largely represented the “popular” kids. Rising junior Grant Burrows, a star on the school’s cross-country and track teams, represented the “jocks.” I (a rising senior) represented, well, no community–maybe some mix of the nerds and anarchists? Grant won by a comfortable margin.

Soon after the elections, Grant reached out to me and invited me to be his deputy (I don’t remember the exact title). I’m still not sure why Grant did that. Initially, I feared he was trying to Tom Sawyer me, i.e., I would do the actual VP work while he enjoyed the title. However, I thought I could use the position to tap into the student legislature’s power, so I agreed.

Our alliance was unexpected. Not only had we just been election rivals, but Grant and I had different origin stories. His family was deeply Christian and wealthy (they lived in Montecito and had a Rolls-Royce, the ultimate wealth symbol in the 1980s), and Grant had gone through the Santa Barbara public school system and knew everyone. I was a mostly secular Jew, our family wasn’t wealthy, and I relocated to Santa Barbara in 9th grade and didn’t have very strong or deep community roots.

Nevertheless, we shared some key traits. First, neither of us suffered fools well. Of course, going to a public high school in the 1980s, we were surrounded by people we thought were fools. Second, we both were interested in philosophy, especially stoicism and asceticism. We often competed to see who could forego more creature comforts.

[Note: I have matured a lot since my teens, but traces of these attributes remain in my present-day persona.]

During my senior year, Grant and I took over the student legislature. I proposed many (15+?) resolutions to address various school issues, with almost no tangible results to show for it. (I don’t have any of these materials in digital format, and I suspect the records are permanently gone). The “highlight” of that year’s legislative efforts was my proposal to impeach the cheerleading squad. The school constitution required the squad to attend many athletic events–more than they could reasonably handle–which they weren’t doing. From a textualist standpoint, the impeachment motion was well-grounded. However, today I can imagine several more productive approaches than jumping to the punishment phase. (Our student government teacher, Mr. Couch–another highly influential figure on me–never counseled me to consider these alternatives. I think he liked watching me crash into brick walls). Unsurprisingly, the impeachment vote failed.

In my second semester of my senior year, I joined the track team. This was an unusual choice for me. Athletics weren’t important in our family, I hadn’t done any sports in high school, and I sucked at all of them. (I joined the track team after college applications were in, so this wasn’t a cynical ploy to boost my applications). I think, in retrospect, joining the track team was mostly about testing myself, but surely Grant’s involvement on the track team played a role. We did practice runs together and got to travel to/hang out at track meets together.

Because I was a year ahead of Grant [FN], I graduated in 1985 and enrolled at UCLA while Grant completed his senior year at SBHS. We kept in touch in 1985-86 and reconnected when Grant enrolled at UCLA in Fall 1986.

[FN: I skipped a grade in elementary school, so Grant and I were the same age even though I was a class ahead.]

During Fall 1986 orientation at the UCLA dorms, I befriended an incoming freshman, Monica. Through me, she met Grant, and they started a romantic relationship that would change both of their lives.

Throughout college, my 2-year stint in commercial real estate between undergraduate and graduate school, and my first couple of graduate school years, Grant and I kept testing our limits together. For example:

  • we frequented cheap restaurants in search of food that was spicy enough to make us cry. This was before the ghost pepper challenge, which we surely would have tried.
  • I took a Sierra Club wilderness training course in 1990, which inspired me to take more ambitious trips. Together, we hiked Mt. San Jacinto, a 10,000 feet peak west of Palm Springs, and backpacked on Catalina Island. Both of these trips stretched my physical and logistical capacities, and I’m not sure I would have done them without Grant’s involvement.

Sadly, I don’t have any photographic evidence of these activities handy. Maybe I have a few photos in my physical photo albums, but none in digital format. It was a different era.

In the early 1990s, my relationship with Grant fizzled out. His relationship with Monica disintegrated, and although I had strong relationships with both of them, inevitably I would have to choose a side. At that point, I had more in common with Monica, so I gravitated towards Team Monica and implicitly disqualified myself for Team Grant. Grant and I spoke only a few times after that–it was at least 25 years since our last exchange.

I recently learned that Grant died in 2022, and the news hit me hard. My reaction surprised me because it had been so long time since we had spoken, and we weren’t likely speak in the future. Perhaps it’s an acknowledgement that when Grant died, so did all of his memories of our interactions in the events discussed in this post and many others I’ve surely forgotten. It brings to mind Batty’s final monologue in Blade Runner, when he says “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain…”

Although many details of our time together are now permanently lost, I remain grateful for his friendship and the many ways he inspired me. I extend my sympathies to Grant’s family and friends. May his memory be for a blessing.

* * *

One of Grant’s daughters wrote this obituary:

Grant Burrows passed away May 17, 2022 in Irvine, California.

Grant Edward Burrows was born to Sue and Donald Burrows and grew up in Santa Barbara, California.  He attended Santa Barbara High School and participated in student government, track and cross-country.  Following high school, he backpacked through Europe before entering college.  Grant studied philosophy at UCLA, UC Irvine, and USC.  After graduating, Grant worked with his father at Anarad, Inc. in Santa Barbara. Grant was a self-taught software programmer and engineer, a profession he continued for 30 years working at Rockwell Collins and Panasonic Avionics.

Grant was gifted with a love of foreign language, enjoyed travelling and the opportunity to meet people around the world.  He never missed an opportunity to try new foods in places he visited.  He often took his daughters on road trips around the country and throughout Baja California, and on trips to Asia, South America and Europe. Grant also lived in Vietnam at various times of his life, making Hoi An his home for many years.

Grant is survived by his daughter Emma Burrows and her mother Van Ho, his daughter Christina Burrows and grandsons Alexander and Adam, his brother Wyeth Burrows, his sisters Heather Burrows and Dawn Anderson, and his aunts and uncles Billie Maunz, Chuck Maunz, Carolyn Novick, and Peter Novick. Grant was preceded in death by his parents Donald and Sue Burrows.