Grant Harvey Egley (90) of Lake Waccamaw, NC crossed the finish line of his most recent ultramarathon on January 7, 2023 due to complications from COVID.
In the 1968 Egley family Christmas newsletter, Grant’s wife, Donna, wrote “This year, Grant took up ‘jogging’...” Little did she — or he — know that “jogging” would turn into a lifelong passion for long-distance running.
In 2020, Grant estimated that he had run more than 68,000 miles — more than two and a half times around the Earth — including 132 marathons and ultramarathons (any race longer than 26.2 miles). He ran in 48-hour runs, 24-hour runs, and 100-mile trail runs, and at age 88 ran 635 miles in 104 days. In 1980 he wanted to test his mettle by running an ultra but there were none within a day’s drive, so he created the Mississippi 50-Mile Run, an annual event which continues today.
His was a quiet strength — Don’t talk about it; just do it. Even his close friends may not realize he was the State of Mississippi Road Racing (cycling!) champ in the masters division in 1972 and 1973. When asked what inspired him to get up and out every day to train, he would say “Self-discipline is remembering what you want.”
A perpetual advocate for healthy living, Grant valued the idea that age is a mindset. He helped to establish the Take the Lake event at Lake Waccamaw in 2009. Three years later he took up kayaking at age 80.
He was a scientist and a philosopher, open to new ideas and compelled by lively discussion. Anyone joining him on a run could expect to use whatever breath they could muster while trying to keep up with him to talk about God, Time, Faith, and Science — as his kids can attest. His insatiable curiosity kept him in intellectual pursuit throughout his life.
An early MacGyver, his ingenuity shone on family camping trips in the Egley “shortie bus,” a VW microbus outfitted (using just plywood and foam rubber) to sleep a family of five and two dogs. The plastic bowl used to wash dishes doubled as a spare-tire cover secured to the front of the bus. Why buy the things you need if you can make them from stuff around the house? seemed to be his philosophy, as he did things like designing his own waterproof garbage-bag running clothes before there was Gore-Tex, and making his own energy bar-type “goo”: peanut butter and honey in a baggie.
He loved to travel and explored much of the globe with Donna and adventuresome friends. Fully immersed in the world, he was a participant in life, not merely a spectator, an outlook that his children learned while still young — like the time he woke them up, predawn, to view a sunrise over the Grand Canyon before climbing with them down into it and back out of it, then watching the sun set over it afterwards. As he often said — about both the good and the bad —“It’s all part of the experience.”
Highly principled and committed to community, he was actively involved with the United Methodist communities in Lake Waccamaw and Leland (Mississippi), led an Explorer Scouting post and UMYF groups, volunteered for the Red Cross, tested Lake Waccamaw water samples, and helped out at the community food pantry.
His Bella Coola Road community, who walked and ran with him daily, knew he was a diehard sports fan, rooting all his life for the Cleveland Browns and the Cleveland Indians — which might have contributed to his never-give-up sense of humor.
Born outside rural Dalton, Ohio, to Blanche and Grant C. Egley, young Grant Harvey developed an early love of the outdoors playing in the fields behind the family home. He attended Dalton High School where he clearly took to heart the Class of 1950’s motto: “The elevator to success is broken; take the stairs.” The first in his family to go to college, he studied biology at Bowling Green State University, where he developed lifelong friendships as a member of Phi Kappa Tau fraternity. Under the tutelage of this fun-loving group — who dubbed him “Tate” — the usually quiet Grant demonstrated a heretofore hidden theatrical flair and a love of doing standup comedy.
Luckily he continued at BGSU for grad school because that is where he met the love of his life, Donna Parobeck. They married in 1956. After earning his PhD in plant physiology from Purdue University, he was hired by the USDA to eradicate witchweed in southeastern North Carolina. The couple moved to Lake Waccamaw and started a family: Laura, Cathy, and Grant Jeffrey.
In 1970 the family moved to Leland, Mississippi when Grant was transferred to the USDA agricultural research station in the Mississippi Delta. When Grant and Donna retired in 1995, they returned to Lake Waccamaw, bought a place down the road from the home they had left 25 years earlier, and jumped right back into the community.
Grant was preceded in death by his parents, Blanche Mercer Egley and Grant Clauden Egley, and his sister, Barbara Egley Beltz. He is survived by his wife, Donna Parobeck Egley; children Laura Egley Taylor (Tim); Catherine Egley Waggoner (Dana); and Grant J. Egley; grandchildren Revere Taylor (Eliza Woodyard); Ian Waggoner; and Graham Waggoner; his big sister Maxine Egley Linn; and beloved family and friends in Lake Waccamaw, Leland (MS), and across the country.
A funeral service will be held Saturday, January 14 at Lake Waccamaw Methodist Church at 2:00 pm with Rev. Tal Madison officiating. Visitation is from 1:00 - 1:45 pm prior to the service.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any donations be made to the Grant H. Egley Nursing Program Fund, Southeastern Community College Foundation, PO Box 151, Whiteville, NC 28472 or donate online at sccnc.edu/give