FREDERICKSBURG, Va. (WDVM) – Jo Draper Grante has what her husband calls a “servant’s heart.”
A born caregiver, Jo cared for her husband, Julian, who had multiple bouts of cancer, for most of their marriage.
Jo has her daily routine in hand – giving Julian his medication at the same time every day, checking his blood pressure and driving her husband to frequent doctor’s appointments. It’s been that way for almost 20 of their 32 years of marriage.
“When you get married, you say the vow, ‘For better or for worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health,'” Jo said. “You have no idea what that might entail. Our lives have taken the road to some of the hardest parts.
Julian is a warrior himself, battling multiple bouts of cancer and open-heart surgery. Although the days were difficult, through it all, Jo never left him.
“When I got sick, she didn’t run away or take a vacation, or ask someone to come take care of me,” Julian said. “She took care of me.”
A former paramedic, her love for her husband put her dreams on hold. Jo’s “servant’s heart” called her to pursue an even further career in medicine, but couldn’t do both.
“If I hadn’t gotten sick, she would be a medical assistant somewhere right now, but she had to give up that career to take care of me,” her husband said.
Through long hours of doctor’s appointments and long nights of worrying for Julian, Grante says her Christian faith has sustained her – and kept her hopeful and grateful through the dark times.
“It’s such a blessing to have him. Even though the day is going to mean I have a lot on my to-do list, I’m really glad he’s on this list,” Jo said.
Somehow, Jo still finds time to continue giving to others outside of her family. The Grants started an organization called FOCUS (From Opportunity Comes Ultimate Success), which helps teens transition from “welfare to work.”
The program taught the teenagers a variety of job skills, and at the end of their twelve months of training, they found a job.
“We were able to help young people learn how to own and operate their own catering service, whether it’s catering or working in a restaurant as a waiter or waitress,” Jo said.
Jo’s job led her to receive a letter from the White House, asking her to speak about welfare in America at a congressional hearing.
“Jo spoke, talked about our program, and it was televised around the world on the BBC,” her husband said proudly.
It was then that Grant realized the impact she could have on people and her community.
“It wasn’t until later that we talked about it and I was like, ‘Oh my God, what just happened?'” Jo said.
From there, Jo continued to serve, caring for children born with HIV/AIDS during the epidemic of the 1980s. Jo and her husband frequently visited hospitals to visit newborns.
The Grantes remember a case where the children were not able to visit the circus. So the Grants made a quick phone call to Ringling Brother’s Circus.
“They brought the circus home, to the group home where they were. The smiles, the joy, the excitement, the laughter…”, remembers Julian.
These acts of community service are just the beginning for Jo, and while Julian insists that’s all his wife does, she says it wouldn’t be possible without her husband’s support.
“He has all the great ideas. I just figured out how to make it work,” Jo laughed.