LUTZ — As a teenager in the 1940s, Paul Albert Grantham built his own Ford Model Ts.
His wife, then his girlfriend, remembers her future husband gathering spare parts for the body and the engine and then assembling the pieces.
"This was years ago, when guys would write crazy things on their cars," said Helen Grantham, 77.
On the side of his car, a young Mr. Grantham wrote: "Girls who smoke throw their butts in here."
Mr. Grantham died Monday from complications of Crohn's disease. He was 80.
When he married Helen and moved to Lutz to raise a family, he still practiced his mechanical skills. He worked as a field engineer for GTE, but his family said he was also revered as the town's handyman. If neighbors couldn't fix something, they would bring it to Mr. Grantham, who fixed everything from cars to radios.
"He could fix anything," said his son Randall, 51. "He tore it apart and figured it out what is was."
He and his family lived on Lake Hobbs. Mr. Grantham taught his sons to hunt and his daughter to shoot. If the family wanted dinner, they would go and catch it.
"If you wanted rabbit for dinner, we'd go out and flush one out from under the lumber pile," Randall Grantham said.
Mr. Grantham and sons Randall and Paul Alan hunted the usual — wild hogs, quail, rabbits and turkeys. Sometimes they would get a deer or two. They fished for bass. They hunted squirrel.
"There's been a squirrel epidemic since Dad stopped," Randall Grantham said.
The hunting continued until about two years ago, when Mr. Grantham broke his hip and couldn't get around like before.
Every year, the Granthams would throw a party called the "Squirrel Feast," named for the most prevalent item on the menu. Neighbors would bring game meat: rattlesnake, bear, deer, wild hog and wild turkey.
Squirrel is mostly dark meat, Helen Grantham said, "but very tasty." Her son Randall said it tastes like chicken and "it's not as gamey as duck or dove."
The hunting trips were only for the boys — "no-females" trips, as daughter Melinda Grantham-Holmes remembers them.
Still, she learned to shoot rifles and handguns growing up. A month before Mr. Grantham died, he wanted to make sure his daughter got his .22-caliber Henry rifle, she said.
Mr. Grantham was always thoughtful of others, his family said. He always made his wife feel beautiful. When the two jitterbugged at parties, Mr. Grantham made sure all the women got a chance to dance — even if their husbands didn't want to. "We had a good time," Helen Grantham said. "We were true partners."
Amy Mariani can be reached at (813) 226-3374 or email@example.com.