Boxing trainer extraordinaire John Clinton Grinage, passes at 89

Herb Boyd | 8/2/2018, 12:36 p.m.
John Clinton Grinage was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Nov. 19, 1928, at St. Mary’s Hospital to Luther and Viola Grinage. ...
John Clinton Grinage

John Clinton Grinage was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Nov. 19, 1928, at St. Mary’s Hospital to Luther and Viola Grinage. He was the sole offspring of that union. Grinage’s father was a professional boxer in Belize during the 1920s and exposed him to the sport at a very young age. He was around it constantly and it became a part of him. By the age of 10, Grinage had developed his boxing skills.

When Grinage was a youngster, the top trainers of the day would visit his home Sunday afternoons, inspiring him to one day become a trainer himself. He attended the Old Boys High School and married Fanny Josephine (Jo) Staten Oct. 15, 1945. From that union came three daughters, Lana (Anazora Solomon), Linda (Haziine EyTina) and Lois (Ajuba Bartley). The Grinages also raised Haziine’s oldest daughter, Dakeeta (Dakeeta Hatcher).

Grinage was a devoted husband and father and never wavered in his responsibility to his family. In 2002, he was recipient of the Father of the Year Award from Emmanuel Baptist Church. He was employed at the Long Island Soap Company for 26 years and retired when his job there moved out of state. Retirement gave him the time to pursue his dream of becoming a boxing trainer.

In 1955, he began training at-risk teens in the community center of the Marcy Houses in Brooklyn. Having heard of his reputation in the field, jazz trumpeter Miles Davis and drummer Max Roach both enlisted Grinage to train their sons, Gregory and Darrell, respectively. He eventually became a professional trainer in New York City, a second career that spanned more than 20 years and allowed him to travel to Europe. One of Grinage’s fighters won three World Boxing Associations titles.

Besides his devotion to training young boxers, Grinage was a dedicated community leader. He was one of the founders of Bed-Stuy Boxing Association for Youth, and he volunteered his time at the McBurney Chelsea Center, teaching the fundamentals of boxing. He cared deeply about the youth he worked with and would always say, “I never encourage a kid to be a fighter. I encourage them to stay in school and get a college degree.”

Grinage was also quite adept in Japanese massage therapy and offered these services for free to people who needed relief from pain. It gave him great joy to be able to reduce someone’s suffering. He said, “I realize that many people have helped me in my life, and I want to do the same for others.” An avid fitness enthusiast, he routinely worked out three hours a day, four to five days a week. He understood the importance of taking care of his body. He even found time to explore the field of broadcasting and was employed by local TV personality Joe Franklin for several years as part of the production team for his show.

“Johnny boy” as he was affectionately called, loved music and patronized the arts all of his life. His favorites were salsa, calypso, Mahalia Jackson and most of all jazz. Grinage managed his wife’s singing career and started Dakeeta Recording Corporation, where he was resident and produced two albums by his wife, “Mothers Love Song,” and “Ode to Kim.” He was also a social activist and heavily involved in the African Jazz Art Society, where he took the African name Muganda. He regularly attended shows at Birdland, Slugs, the Five Spot, the Village Vanguard and The Blue Coronet in Brooklyn. A host of jazz musicians and enthusiasts such as Paul Chambers, Jimmy Cobb, Hilton Ruiz, Roland Alexander, Joe Knight, Scoby Stroman, Ed Stoute, Lorraine Blakey (Art Blakey’s daughter) and pianist Wynton Kelly often serenaded Grinage’s family at their home Saturday evenings.

Grinage, who joined the ancestors July 17, was predeceased by his brothers Billy and Butch. His memory will forever be celebrated by his wife of nearly 73 years and his daughters. His grandchildren include Dakeeta Hatcher (Chris Hatcher) Saeida Hall, Fiona Ghartey, Mikestris Solomon, Melaka Ehigieto (Ide Ehigieto), Jedalia Monagan (William Monagan) Daretia Solomon, Roklina Johnson (Deric Johnson) Haily Bond, Jon EyTina, Ladae Bond, Maiow EyTina (deceased), and Yovelah EyTina. His great-grandchildren include Adella Ghartey, June Smith, Tafari Howe-Ghartey, Issac Ofori, Doren Johnson, Adriel Gibson-Ghartey, Michael Offig, Faith Ehigieto, Sammy Monagan, Purpose Monagan, and Hannah EyTina.

His other survivors are brothers-in-law Walter Staten Jr. and Leon Atkinson and a host of cousins, nieces and nephews and friends.

The family of John Grinage thanks each and every one of you for your compassion, comforting words and deeds. They acknowledge the visits, cards, calls, travels and most importantly the fruits of your lips through prayer. God is a true and just God, may he bless each and every one of you, and continue to make you a blessing.

Funeral services were held July 25 at Bells Funeral Home. Internment took place at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Putnam Valley, N.Y.