Claude Sutton Jr. and Myrtle Barrus have seen their hometown of Grantsville change greatly during their nearly-94 years of life.
The town, once divided into distinct sections, is now united, no longer defined by church boundaries. The population is nearly 10 times what it was when Sutton and Barrus were born in 1922.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is Grantsville’s appreciation for those who helped the small town make its mark. On Monday, the city will honor Sutton and Barrus as grand marshals of its annual Fourth of July celebration, with the two taking part in the local parade.
“Mayor (Brent) Marshall called me up and asked me if I would consent to be one (of the grand marshals) with Mrs. Barrus,” Sutton said. “I said, ‘well, how much does it pay?’ He said, ‘not a thing,’ but I said, ‘OK, we’ll do it.’”
Sutton, a lifelong Grantsville resident, is known for spearheading the transformation of the Grantsville Cemetery in the mid-1960s. An out-of-control fire that resulted from burning the weeds that once covered the cemetery led Sutton to suggest planting grass to then-mayor Teryl Hunsaker. He also helped map out the graves in the cemetery — a difficult task given the condition of many of the markers, while other graves had no markers at all, according to a 2012 article in the Transcript Bulletin.
He is a 1941 graduate of Grantsville High School and has fond memories of his high school years, particularly the Cowboys’ football and basketball games.
“I didn’t participate, but I was the scorekeeper and manager,” he said. “I wasn’t big enough to do anything but checkers.”
One of the biggest changes he has seen is how Grantsville has gone from being split by church boundaries to a more cohesive community. Sutton’s wife, Lola, lived in the far eastern part of Grantsville, known then as Stringtown, while he came from the part of town known as Uptown.
“In those days, there were two (LDS Church) wards, and they didn’t get along,” he said.
He reflected on his friendship with Barrus’ late husband, Albert, when they were growing up.
“He was the tallest boy in the school in seventh grade, and then he stopped right there,” Sutton said.
Barrus, also approaching her 94th birthday, was born in Salt Lake City and moved to Grantsville when she was about a year old, she said. Like Sutton, she enjoyed growing up in Grantsville and said her hometown has changed a lot.
“So have I,” she joked.
She was one of eight children, including six brothers.
“I think when my parents had four — they had two boys and two girls, they thought they had enough,” Barrus said. “Then they ended up with four more boys.”
Barrus is the mother of three children, with 13 grandchildren, 48 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
“That’s a lot of posterity,” said Barrus’ daughter, Sherry.
One of the Fourth of July events, the Grantsville City 5K Scholarship Run, is in honor of Ray Barrus, Myrtle’s late son who died of cancer in 1994. Ray Barrus was a world-class distance runner who attended Brigham Young University and was a member of the Los Angeles Striders track team. He won the first Salt Lake Marathon, which has become a Pioneer Day tradition.
He also served as a teacher and track coach in Grantsville, where he played football and basketball in addition to running track when he was in high school.
The theme of this year’s Grantsville City Fourth of July Celebration is “The Miracle of America.” Monday’s parade begins at 11 a.m., with the lineup at 10 a.m. The parade will travel west along Main Street to Center Street before turning south to Cherry Street. It will then travel east along Cherry Street to City Park, where there will be a car show, a talent showcase and games for kids. The fireworks display will begin at 10 p.m.
Other events on Monday include the race honoring Ray Barrus at 7:30 a.m. at Grantsville High School, a pancake breakfast from 7-10 a.m. and a flag-raising ceremony at 8 a.m. at the Grantsville Fire Station.