" Life is NOT a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming - 'WOW! WHAT A RIDE!'"
Greg Lee speaking at friend Ralph Jensen's memorial quoting Mark Frost.
Bigger-than-life. A character. A wild man. A throwback. An enormously talented athlete. A trickster. A funster. A big-hearted outlaw. A motivator. An entertainer. A Whistler personality.
Call him what you want, the inimitable Greg Lee was thoroughly, completely, absolutely in love with life. No apologies. No excuses. Not even a 'what if' every now and then. 'Damn the torpedoes' was his modus operandi. Full speed ahead was his only speed.
Laugh, or cry or gasp in surprise. Shake your head or weep for your loss. When the former (and always) Whistlerite collapsed on the deck of Ontario's Craigleith ski club two Saturday's ago (he would succumb to the massive stroke that felled him two days later), the Canadian Snoweater community lost one of its most committed champions. And he was only - gasp! - 58...
But don't feel sorry for him. He never did. In an email to old friend Shelley Adams last fall, he described himself thusly: "Two artificial knees. Two fake hips. And, a heart that's been broken too many times to care about anymore. I live in my Cadillac - NFA! No Fixed address!!!! Well... not really...." And you could almost hear the raucous guffaw erupting at the end of that sentence. The guy was incorrigible! So much in love with life - so enthused by the moment - that he pushed the envelope at every opportunity.
And I've received countless tales from friends and colleagues to attest to that fact. But before we get into those stories, let me offer a little anecdote of my own. I think it reveals much about the man.
The year was 1975 and I had left Whistler to take a job in the US as a ski coach. For those who weren't around back then, the '70s was a period of huge growth for the sport. Competitive ski programs were popping up everywhere. And young wannabe coaches like me were in huge demand.
But while the World Cup circuit was expanding fast in Europe, the newfangled dual pro-format racing style was becoming all the rage in America - and I really mean rage. There was an 'A' circuit for the international big-wigs (with a big budget to go with it), and a 'B' circuit for us lesser mortals.