A tribute to La’auli Alan Grey

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Seiuli Paul Wallwork

It is often said that “Time Produces the Man”. Laauli Alan Grey was surely a man for the time.

This last week we laid to rest Laauli Alan Grey, a man of exemplary character and integrity, who stood tall amongst all of us, and yet, in his own quiet unassuming manner, to touch the lives of so many.

In the many years I was associated with Alan, in sport, in rugby especially, even when he was displeased or unhappy with anything or anybody, it was never visible. He maintained his straight look and soft voice. He remained focussed on the positive side of things, and clearly showed his intent to foster development of the sport and the players involved.

Growing up in Samoa, the legendary Aggie Grey and her hotel was well known and admired in our community. Alan Grey became the quiet force of the company. 

My first association with Alan Grey, was our participation to represent Samoa at the South Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea. He competed in Yachting, and I was weightlifting. We all camped in the one dormitory accommodation, very basic in those early days of the Games. 

And yet, here was Samoa’s well-known hotelier sharing bunk-style sleeping arrangements, and enjoying the camaraderie that existed in our small contingent from Samoa. Alan would see how the majority of the athletes were just local unemployed  young men and he would quietly slip pocket money in their pockets. 

I remember also that Galumalemana Alfred Betham the President and Coach of Boxing became ill during the Games, and asked Alan and myself if we would second the boxers in the ring. Both Alan and myself were inexperienced but still agreed to do it to help Galumalemana. Our six boxers made it to the finals, and 4 won gold medals. We were over the moon and even contemplated if we should consider changing our sports. I recall with much gratitude how La’auli would support our sport of weightlifting time and again, as he would all other sports. 

Right up to the week before he was called to rest, he sent his daughter to give each of the weightlifting team for the Commonwealth Games pocket money for their participation. Such outstanding generosity, that reaches out to make a difference in the lives of others, to further encourage them in their quest to give their best for their country. In the many conversations that I have had with him, that message comes through loud and clear. La’auli mainly wanted to encourage and develop our young men and women in sport to be the best they can be. 

We again went to Tahiti in 1971 to compete in the South Pacific Games and, Alan again would quietly give money to our very grateful athletes. Later I became involved in the Rugby Union, going on to coach our National Rugby team.  And, in those days, when there was no money in the Rugby Union, Alan would offer to finance the teams. 

I was so grateful and amazed at how he would automatically provide the money for uniforms, airfares, meals, for that team I took to the 3 nations tournament, and many other teams as well. I went back to thank him when we won the tournament, but he just brushed it off casually.  

He never negotiated any conditions for his sponsorship, and I noted especially, he became embarrassed and uncomfortable if he was praised or thanked for his contribution. Such was the man that was Alan Grey. I was greatly encouraged and inspired to work alongside and with him in training and preparing our rugby teams. As a sportsman and athlete, I was greatly motivated and encouraged by his support.

Laauli Alan Grey lived by the highest principles, that he did not allow to be compromised for business, social or political influence. His language was simple, but straightforward and honest. I always felt that he was guided by a higher force, and his words and actions attested to his strong belief and faith in God. 

I firmly believe that was the foundation for his character and the great man that he was.  Listening to the eulogy delivered by his son, Lupesina Fred Grey, I could not agree with him more; Laauli Alan Grey was one in a million. He was the best of the best.  I know, in my lifetime, it would be hard to find someone such as Laauli Alan Grey. I was privileged and honoured to know him. There is an Old Indian proverb that reads: “Some people come into our lives, and quickly go. Some people stay for a while, and leave their footprints on our hearts, and we are never, ever the same.”

Laauli Alan Grey walked this earth a humble, but great man. He touched our hearts and our lives with his love and kindness. He has left footprints that would be hard to fill, but they will remain in our hearts and minds.

To Marina, Aggie, Tanya, Fred and your families, you have lost a wonderful husband father and grandfather. We share your sorrow. Samoa has lost a legend. We have lost a friend. Rest In Peace, Laauli Alan Grey. We salute and honour you.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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