Obituary: Hardy Grant, sculptor, dies at 77

Hardy Ray Grant, 77, best known in Tucson as sculptor of the John F. Kennedy bust which he donated to the city of Tucson in 1964, died of heart failure June 26, 2015.

Hardy was born in Texas but grew up in California with his mother after his parents divorced. His artistic abilities were noted early. He came to Tucson to complete his time as an Airman at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, then attended fine arts college at the University of Arizona on the G.I. Bill. He was 26 when he sculpted the Kennedy bust, now installed in downtown Tucson’s Presidio Park. A second casting of the sculpture is in the Kennedy Library in Odessa, Texas, and he sold a third one to Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, for the JFK Special Warfare Center.

Soon realizing art was not going to make him a living wage, he began the first of numerous enterprises, including running the Minus One coffee shop on Sixth Street near the University in the mid ‘60s. Folk music artists, famous and unknown, found eager audiences at the venue. For a while Hardy’s accomplished light shows earned him notoriety and some cash.

To say his career experiences were eclectic is understatement. He raced cars for a time. He thought he could design a car that Detroit would buy. So he built a prototype, sculpting the fiberglass body and even forging glass to assure the windshield was the correct fit. He, along with his motorcycle, was hired to ride as an extra in the Devil’s Angels movie motorcycle gang for a film starring John Cassavetes shot partly in Patagonia, Arizona. He taught himself the building trade and bought fix-up houses he repaired and rented. He taught sculpture briefly, holding some of his classes at the air base.

He was married twice, first to Marilyn Tully. They had two children, Chad Grant and Mary Bailie. His second marriage was to Venece Hardy Grant. Venice kept her maiden name of Hardy, and added the Grant. “He told me when we started dating that he was still going to see other women, but he never did,” his widow says. They were together 35 years. The couple was active in the local chapter of Mensa, which Hardy headed for several years.

Venece says Hardy, who helped many a stranger with car troubles, was always generous with his time. As an artist he experimented with multiple art forms. His creations include drawings, paintings, wood carvings, sculptures, glass and metal fabrications. He had a sense of humor that carried over into some whimsical artistic creations. Venece says she will particularly miss their verbal banter. She describes her husband as intelligent, handsome, and exceedingly charming.

Hardy Grant is survived by six grandchildren: Shane Grant, Montana Grant, Indy Grant, David Lane, Cara Bailie, and Kaitlyn Bailie.

A private service will be held at his home. In lieu of flowers the family requests to please donate to

5 thoughts on “Obituary: Hardy Grant, sculptor, dies at 77”

  1. He used his life’s time to create, to live, to love, and be who he wanted to be. He was loved and will be missed.

  2. Duke was unique in so many ways. Gentle, brilliant, always creative, building light shows and television projectors decades ago. The Minus One featured cutting edge theater as well as young Linda Ronstadt before she was famous. His sense of humor was piquant, never cruel. Finding this obit is a shock–I’m late to the news. I just drove by his unique house recently and thought of stopping in to say hello soon. He was one of Tucson’s treasures. Deepest sympathy to his wife and children and grandchildren and his many friends. He can never be replaced.

    • My sister nerver met her father in person and only spoke with him once or twice in the phone. She just found out a week or so ago (6/2017) that her biological father (Duke) had passed 2 years ago.

      Duke and our mother met in Riverside, CA when they were both in the USAF in 1956.

  3. I met Duke Grant, when I got off a bus in Tucson,with Buffy St. Marie as my friend Gunner Overall. Gunner & I were on our way to live in Guadalajara, Mexico. Since Buffy was on her way to play at the Minus One, we ended up spending two great weeks there and eventually revolved around to setting up a home base in Tucson, thanks to Duke’s openness & generosity.

    Duke Grant was an accomplished artist and extraordinarily good at the art of living with a level of honesty that most people can’t imagine.

    My condolences to those who loved him & to the world that lost him… They broke the mold after they made Duke… as they say now, “We’ll never see his like again…”

    PS. If anyone wants photographs I have a couple of excellent photographs of Duke, from the 60s, that I’d be glad to share…


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