An era in the history of Samoa ended yesterday with the burial of national icon, La’auli Alan Nicholas Links Grey.
At the family’s Afiamalu Homestead, rain drizzled lightly when his 82-year-old body was lowered to his final resting place next to his mother, Aggie, with a full Police Guard in attention.
Described as a “very simple man with a big heart”, it was a sad day for Samoa.
The Head of State, His Highness Tuimaleali’ifano Va'aletoa Sualauvi II and his Masiofo, Her Highness Fa'amausili Leinafo paid their respects.
They were joined by former Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi and his Masiofo, Her Highness Filifilia Tamasese, Members of the Council of Deputies, Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament, members of the business community and people from all over the world who turned up to bid farewell.
A rare honour for non-Members of Parliament, La’auli was accorded a state funeral to acknowledge his contribution to Samoa in tourism, business, trade, rugby and his love for everyone – including animals.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi presented his wife, Marina Grey, with the national flag as a token of appreciation from the country for his life of service.
Prior to his burial, his final service at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, Mulivai was attended by hundreds of who’s who of Samoa.
The formalities kicked off with a touching tribute by the Manu Samoa Sevens who performed a fierce war dance inside the Cathedral. The team was led by Manu Samoa Sevens coach and rugby legend, Sir Gordon Tietjens.
In his eulogy, Prime Minister Tuilaepa, who is also the Chairman of the Samoa Rugby Union, said there would never be another La’auli. He said Cabinet’s decision to accord him the rare honour of a state funeral was befitting of what he had offered Samoa during his lifetime of service.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa remembered a “humble man” who went out of his way to help as many people as possible.
As recognition of his services to Samoa, Tuilaepa said La’auli was awarded the Western Samoa Order of Merit in 1993 to honour his contribution to tourism development, employment creation, investments and his role in the development of rugby.
He highlighted La’auli’s key strategic contribution to the development of the tourism industry, through the Aggie Grey’s hotel brand. What the Aggie Grey’s hotel achieved under La’auli’s guidance in terms “word of mouth” promotion as a result of exceptional Samoan hospitality was ahead of its time, Tuilaepa said.
Even with today’s standards of service, Tuilaepa said they have not been able to recreate the magic and ambience of what Aggie Grey’s did by simply welcoming visitors and treating them like Samoans do.
A loving father to Aggie, Tanya and Lupesina Frederick, they remembered a man who loved their mother, the people of Samoa and did everything to lay the foundation for them to succeed.
“When I think about my Papa, I remember a loving, caring and a gentle man who was humble, low-key but had a big heart to help anyone and everyone – including all living things,” Lupesina said in his eulogy.
“I remember a visionary man who loved this country of Samoa and her people. I remember a simple man who would pick up complete strangers and drop them off to the market, give them food and money. I remember a man who fed stray dogs, loved animals and did his best to look after them. He even cared about the bats which congregated near our home.” (read Lupesina’s eulogy below).
La’auli died peacefully at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital, Moto’otua, last Saturday morning.
The son of the late Aggie Grey, he comes from a family of seven. His brothers were Gordon Haye Mackenzie, Ian Mackenzie, Edward Grey with his sisters being Pele Turner, Peggy Mackenzie and Maureen Grey Hannah.
He is survived by his wife Marina, children Aggie, Tanya, Lupesina, his adopted children Fa’agalu Dominic Fonoti, Patrick Thompson and his grandchildren, Tamarina and Tristan, Tanya, Erich, Alan, Decourtney, Marina and Ace, Klausy and Samantha, Anna-Maria, Thyriki, Kaian, Leiah and Aiyana, adopted grandchildren Pierre, Alan, Zac, Zabian, Pius, Chanel, Kola, Leilani, Chiana and his great grandchildren: Titus, Zoe and Archie.
“There will be no one else like you”
Lupesina Frederick Grey
I want to thank you all for being here today to celebrate the life of our father with us. On behalf of my mother, Marina, sisters, Aggie and Tanya, and our whole family, I want you to know we are deeply grateful for your presence, messages of support, prayers and your love during this most difficult time in our lives.
Losing our beloved father Alan to the call of his Master has not been easy but we are comforted to know that he is resting in a better place, cheering us on in our journey. After all, the Bible tells us that to be absent from the body is to present with God Almighty.
When I think about my Papa, I remember a loving, caring and a gentle man who was humble, low-key but had a big heart to help anyone and everyone – including all living things.
I remember a visionary man who loved this country of Samoa and her people. I remember a simple man who would pick up complete strangers and drop them off to the market, give them food and money.
I remember a man who fed stray dogs, loved animals and did his best to look after them. He even cared about the bats which congregated near our home.
Marina has many fond stories to tell. A couple of days after Cyclone Gita had blown away all the bananas, Alan asked her to find some ripe bananas to hang on the trees outside so that the bats would have something to feed on.
That was my Papa; a loving and a very kind soul.
To say that my father loved my mother is an understatement. He cared for her, adored her and he did everything possible to ensure she was happy.
When Alan left us, they had spent almost 60 years of happiness as a couple. The story started around 1953 when an 18-year-old Alan came to Samoa and decided to stay to help his mother, Aggie, with the Hotel. It was when he was playing rugby that he would meet the love of his life, Marina Thompson.
In those days he said, “I had very little money but whenever I got money, I would go to the Bank of Western Samoa where Marina worked to bank my money in the hope I could ask her out on a date.”
But he said he was always too shy. Still, he kept going every day even though he didn't have any money to bank. Finally he plucked up the courage to ask her out. She agreed and their first date was to a ball. She said “ok Alan, you can pick me up on this day at 7pm.”
Alan arrived at 8pm in a big yellow truck and unfortunately for him Marina had left for the ball with her brothers. But Alan never gave up. Marina would say that when he would enter the Thompson house in Moto’otua, he would sit there for hours and say nothing. But that was Dad, he said little but always had the heart of a lion.
Eventually he and Marina married in Aug 1959 at this venue we are here today and spent 60 years or marriage and started a young family of Aggie, Tanya and myself.
As you would know, my father loved rugby. It started when he was a young 9-year-old living in Auckland. He played his first game of rugby for Ponsonby under 10s on the wing. When he came to kick the ball out, he missed the ball and fell over. From that day onwards, he excelled at Rugby and went on to captain Avondale College’s 1st XV while he was in the 5th Form.
In this team he had numerous future All Blacks. From his young age he went onto to represent Auckland in their Under 21 side with the likes of his good friend Bryan Craies. He skipped 6th and 7th Form and was enrolled directly into Auckland University where he studied Industrial Chemistry.
Alan was adventurous. He was known for skipping many of his classes so he could run away to sail on Auckland Harbour by himself. Despite spending little time at school, he managed to captain the 1st XV, become the Head Boy and get accepted at University.
That was the character of the man. But his destiny was elsewhere and God knew it.
While he was waiting to start university, he got a message from his mother Aggie to return home for the Holidays. She had not seen her youngest son by many years and she had longed to see him.
He returned to Samoa in 1953 and saw that his mother was alone and was struggling with the old Aggie’s Boarding House and Bar. It was then and there that he decided to stay and help his mother with her Boarding house.
The rest is history. Alan played a critical role in the development of the Hotel so that it became one of the most famous Hotels in the World. He drove the business but the whole time never sought any praise. Rather, he preferred to give all the credit to his mother.
While in Samoa helping his mother, he began to return to his passion of playing Rugby and played many years at number 10 for Vaiala. His feats on the field are second to none. You still hear stories of the smallest No 10 on the field with the biggest Heart out there.
While playing for Vaiala, he also had the honor of playing No 10 for Samoa against Tonga. In those days, test matches between Samoa and Fiji were rare due to each team having to travel to each Island by Boat. When his word of his talents and skills reached New Zealand, many people who knew him wondered how far he could have gotten as a rugby player if he had chosen to stay.
But Alan was never about himself. He would always put his family first or a complete stranger over himself.
He did the same after he got married and when he and Marina raised a young family. He gave up playing rugby but went on to coach Vaiala. Under his guidance, Vaiala became one of the most successful clubs in Samoa, winning championship after championship.
With his success with Vaiala, he took the first Samoan Rugby team on an official tour to New Zealand as a Coach where they lost every match with the exception of winning against West Coast Buller.
In years later, he would say to me......you know son, if ever you get to the South Island of New Zealand go to West Coast Buller, nice place.....
In response, I'd say....what was so nice about it.
He’d say: Well, actually it was the only place the Manu Samoa won a game on our New Zealand tour. And even thou we won the locals bought us so much beer.
Alan would continue coaching the Manu Samoa in other tournaments like the 1976 South Pacific Games, the first Maori All Blacks Tour to Samoa, the 1983 South Pacific Games and so on.
With the love of rugby so entrenched in him, he would go on to help the Rugby Union and where he became the Treasurer, then Secretary and then for many, many years it's Chairman.
It was always his dream to see Samoa enter the world stage in Rugby. Under Alan, Samoa went to its first Hong Kong Sevens tournament. But he wanted more. After the 1987 inaugural World Cup in New Zealand, he set his mind on getting Samoa to the next World Cup.
I recall at dinner one night, he turned to Mum and I and said: “You know what, if Fiji can go to the first world cup then so can Samoa.”
My mother replied, but Alan, how can Samoa go when Samoa Rugby has no money
His reply to both of us was: I will have to fund it myself. And sure enough, he did. He was true to his word.
I don't have to remind all of you here today what he achieved. Suffice to say, Samoa made two quarter finals of the World Cup and won the prestigious Hong Kong Sevens. And believe it or not, the Rugby Union office consisted of Piliopo Maia’i as Secretary, Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale as C.E.O and Uaea Apelu. Their offices were located next to Alan’s office at the old Aggie’s. That was Alan; he was a man who had incredible luck in the many things he did, from business to rugby to animals.
Speaking of animals, his dog run around Upolu still continues to this day. He would feed all the neighbours dogs at Vaisigano, all the way up to Afiamalu.
People would joke saying we would pass his farm at Afiamalu and there were hundreds of dogs waiting from 5pm onwards for Alan to come in his red ford truck and feed them.
He would then feed his pigs, cats, chickens and his cattle. One day I said to him, Dad, how come you like going to the farm and being with Animals, what's the big attraction in that.
He would reply: You know what son, you have al lot to learn … you see I like it up here as when I'm dealing with humans, I’m listening to their problems. When I come up to the farm and I'm with my animals, they listen to me, they love me and above all else they don’t talk back to me like humans do...
His other Love was the people, Dad would help anyone, whether it was in New Zealand or back here. And he gave all the time.
One day he and I went to watch Auckland play Waikato at Eden Park. And at Half time, they had an announcement for a draw, when the draw was announced the winning seat was Alan’s. It was a box of rugby jerseys and so forth.
Next to us was a kid my age all alone, the kid next to us started to jump with excitement, but them slumped back down to his seat in sadness knowing the seat that had won the prize was Alan’s.
At that stage Alan turned to me and said son, go to the canteen and get yourself a meat pie. It was one of the rarest occasions he gave me a twenty dollar note.
And I said Dad, you've given me too much, his reply keep the change son and hurry, the meat pies may run out. Then I said Dad, what about the prize you've just won, he said, don't worry, get the meat pie then come back.
So off I went and I came back with my meat pie. I said what about the prize, do you want me to go get it, he said no need son.
I said why’s that. He said: I gave it away.
I said you what, he said, yep I gave it away.
I said why did you do that, he looked at me and said, did you see how excited the kid next to us was when he thought he had the winning seat number and then how sad he looked when he saw the wining seat was my seat.
So I said, so what? Well so what means I gave him my ticket to collect the prize.
That kid according to Alan had the biggest smile on his face and as the second half of the game began, that kid had gone to collect Alan’s prize and never returned for the last 40 minutes of the match.
Years later in Auckland, I would visit a law firm. While I was discussing some matters with this lawyer, he stopped and said, you wouldn't know an Alan Grey would you.
I said yep, he's my old man. Why is that, I asked.
The lawyer looked at me and said: Incredible guy.
I said why’s that? The lawyer replied, I'm bound by client confidentiality rules. So I won't mention my client or who they were.
So I said. Was Alan your client and he replied, nope he wasn't, but he made my client very happy. I said why’s that, well, someone here in Auckland was about to lose their house to the Bank. Westpac for that matter, but out of the blue I got a fax from this guy in Samoa asking for the Bank’s bank details saying he would pay off the loan in full.
I looked at the address and it was from Samoa. So my initial thought was, who's the Joker in Samoa? So I replied and gave the bank’s details, and thought, well this must be some joke but I did it anyway. To the lawyers surprise the bank called and said, that loan for an xxx person has been paid off in full by A Mr. Grey.
The lawyer looked at me and I looked at him and said, what happened next after he made the payment. The lawyer said, nothing, just an incredible gesture by a kind and generous human being.
I replied to the Lawyer, had you met or spoken to Alan? His reply was nope; just one letter from him faxed to me said it all about your father.
That was my Dad, there are countless people that went to him for a loan, to guarantee their loans, countless and he never said no.
Many of them never paid him back and many defaulted with the banks and Alan paid it off. Many of those who had no land, or nowhere to live he bought land for them and gifted it to them. He was always about the people first and him last
He would always say to me: Son, life's all about giving, all about helping your fellow human being and above all else being honest and sincere to everyone. No matter how rich, how poor or what color they are. Everyone's the same to me. I was born a simple man I will walk and die a simple man. But never forget; treat people with respect and humility.
Dad, I can stand here all day all week and keep talking about your love of people, your love for the Samoan people, but I know everyone here today and everyone who was blessed to meet and get to know you know what kind of man you were like.
You battled on with your illness and even in your last days and last hours, you were shaking everyone's hand, kissing everyone and giving them the thumbs up, thanking the nurses and doctors and asking Mum: "Marina do you have twenty tala for the nurse, Marina can you give the nurses and doctors some money".
Before I finish, on behalf of my mother Marina, sisters Aggie and Tanya and our family, I want to acknowledge with gratitude the team at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital who did a fantastic job to look after our father in his last days. From the Ambulance crew, Emergency staff, doctors, nurses and the I.C.U team, you are incredible. Thank you so much.
Dad, how can we ever forget you? You are a small man with the biggest heart of them all. A one in a million, your blood is worth bottling because you are a rare human being. You were all about giving and helping the Samoan people, what a legacy.
There will be no other person like you. But we are comforted that you are now at home with the Virgin Mary whom you loved so much; she came to take you so be at peace. We will sorely, sorely miss you Papa. Mum and all of us will always love you. Ia manuia lau malaga!