Former SRS manager Granagan dies

John Granaghan was a larger than life figure in the community, revered for his leadership and wit. His ability to communicate with people on all levels made him a man of influence. Granaghan, a former manager of the Savannah River Plant, died Saturday morning in Ft. Worth, Texas, at the age of 83 from complications of advanced Parkinson's disease.

Granaghan's career with DuPont spanned 39 years, and his time as a DuPont manager at SRP (now SRS), a position he held from 1978-87, brought him to Aiken.

A graduate of Robert E. Lee High School in Jacksonville, Fla., Granaghan went on to distinguish himself as an athlete where he earned honors as an All-State and All-South selection in football. He also achieved the rank of Eagle Scout during his time with the Boy Scouts.

His athletic achievements earned him a football scholarship to Auburn University, where he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering.

His first assignment was with the Sabine River Works in Orange, Texas, in 1950. During that same year, he married his college sweetheart, Nancy Anne Thomason, whom he was married to for 62 years. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the Green Boundary Club in Aiken surrounded by friends and family.

Granaghan served in the United States Army Corps of Engineers in Korea during the Korean War.

Following his service in the military, Granaghan's association with DuPont took him on a journey that spanned nearly four decades, where he visited numerous locations nationwide, and he was involved in a number of groundbreaking projects.

Those projects included the opening of DuPont's plant in Parkersburg, W.Va., the facility that developed the non-stick chemical for cookware, Teflon. He took on other assignments in positions in Texas, Louisiana and North Carolina.

During his time at the Savannah River Plant as plant manager, he oversaw nearly 15,000 employees and managed the plant until the effects of Parkinson's disease forced his retirement.

Granaghan served on multiple boards, was involved with the Republican Party campaigns in South Carolina, was the chairman for the 50th Anniversary Committee for the Savannah River Site, was selected as the USC Aiken Citizen of the Year, and he and his wife Nancy were also recognized by the S.C. General Assembly with a resolution for their many contributions to Aiken before they relocated to Texas in 2004 to be closer to their sons, who are both medical doctors.

"John took great pride in his leadership role with the DuPont company, as well as many organizations to which he belonged," wrote Bob and Beth Newburn, friends of Granaghan, in an email. "This long list of organizations prompted several of his friends to refer to him as 'Mr. MEMO,' man of many organizations. His close friends and family used this moniker until he passed away."

Granaghan was not one to sugarcoat anything, and his honest approach always let people know where he stood, said Pat Walke, who worked with Granaghan for several years.

"He was a very close friend," said Walke. "He saw things straight, and he would tell you what he saw."

Jim Kelley worked for Granaghan for six years as the general superintendent of employee relations at the Savannah River Plant and as the program manager of separations.

"John never called me Jim," said Kelley, who saw Granaghan two years ago in August and as recently as Oct. 11. "He would always call me Kelley."

Granaghan's management style and ability to interact with the plant's employees made the facility run smoothly, said Kelley.

Kelley, along with Jim Felder, the Savannah River Plant's public relations and public affairs manager, began collecting and writing down the humorous quips Granaghan would often impart during the staff meeting and referred to those witticisms as Granaghanisms.

Among the Granaghanisms that left a lasting impact included "Dilution is no solution to pollution," "Every man sits on his own bottom," "A closed mouth gathers no feet," "Sometimes you meet people with the personality of wart hogs," "It's consistent but not uniform," "He who eats my bread but does not sing my song, does not eat my bread for very long," and, "He has the immediate grasp of the obvious."

Granaghan's Granaghanism about the plethora of workers at the Savannah River Plant was "Construction keeps house like pigs, and we've built some (pig) pens."

Another time, safety groups came down from Washington, D.C., and Granaghan came up with this witty quip to describe their reaction to an issue, said Kelley.

"These people think the cure for rabies is to lock up the people and let the mad dogs run loose."