INDUSTRY — A retiree with Parkinson’s disease rescued three canoeists from the cold water of Clearwater Pond on Sunday morning, even after his personal watercraft overturned.

James Grant pulled two women and one man from the water, which had been whipped into large whitecaps by high winds.

“It was the way I was taught” as a child, the former firefighter and Vietnam War helicopter pilot said Wednesday from his Chandler Road summer home on the east shore of the lake.

“One person said they were in the water 40 minutes,” Maine Warden Dan Christiansen said. “They all had life vests on. That’s the only thing that saved them. Muscles cramp up (in that cold) and you can’t swim.”

The ice went out May 2 and the water temperature Sunday was about 40 degrees, said Grant’s wife, Susan Grant.

James Grant, who has had Parkinson’s for 26 years, said he and Susan were doing yard work at about 10:45 a.m. Sunday when a young man ran up to ask for help because the canoe carrying his sister and her friend had capsized in the middle of the lake.

The two women, the young man, a woman in a second canoe and a person in a kayak had set out on the lake from a leased camp on the west shore when the women’s canoe flipped, Susan Grant said. “The water was probably calmer on that side of the lake,” she said, because the wind was blowing west to east.

After the women’s canoe capsized, the man and woman in the second canoe paddled to shore to get help. The kayaker eventually paddled to shore also.

Susan Grant called 911 and James Grant and the young man got on his personal watercraft and headed for the canoeists. While reaching over to help one of the women out of the water, the watercraft flipped and both men went into the water, James Grant said.

Lee Ireland, who lives on the lake and was the supervisor on duty for NorthStar Ambulance, said he heard the dispatcher call about a capsized boat. He picked up his binoculars, spotted the overturned canoe and the people in the water, then watched as Grant made three trips to bring the two women and one man to shore, he said.

NorthStar Ambulance waited at the head of the pond, but no one required medical treatment, Ireland said.

Christiansen said he and and another warden responded, but everyone was out by the time they arrived.

Members of the Industry Fire Department helped retrieve the canoe, firefighter Rick Tibbetts said.

The five boaters declined to be interviewed, but one did express gratitude for Grant and his actions.

Susan Grant commended her husband’s efforts to save the canoeists.

“That’s his nature … always willing to help someone,” she said.

“I wrote on Facebook that my husband was a true hero today,” she said. “He always has been my hero.”

Besides dealing with Parkinson’s disease, he had a complete shoulder replacement in November and has had more than 20 surgeries in the past three to four years, she said. Despite all that, he never complains, she said.

James Grant grew up in Rangeley and joined the Fire Department at age 16, his wife said. He was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and flew medevac missions for a few years with the National Guard in Bangor. He was also a member of Farmington Fire and Rescue for a number of years, she said.

The couple owned B.D. Moore Gas Service and Depot Laundry in Farmington before taking an early retirement.


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