Al Grey was a positive force in the corridor
Alan Grey, a popular Pemberton Secondary School teacher, outdoor enthusiast, and a genuine Whistler athletic legend, died on Dec. 20 after a two-year battle with colitis. He was 46.
Grey was ski touring in the Cayoosh Valley with longtime friend Kevin Zucht, when he was felled without warning by a blood clot which triggered a cardiac arrest.
Zucht, a patroller, paramedic and member of the Pemberton Search and Rescue Team, performed CPR for a full hour. When it became clear that there was nothing more he could do, Zucht skied almost 14 kilometres out to the highway and contacted the RCMP.
Rather than leave Greys body out all night, Zucht and another Pemberton SAR member were dropped off at the site by helicopter, and skied Grey by sled out to the highway through the night.
"Hed do it for me," said Zucht.
After battling colitis, an inflammatory disease that attacks the colon and large intestine, for almost two years, Grey was forced to leave Pemberton and stay with his parents on Salt Spring Island.
He kept up with his students school work until his condition got worse. He went into the UBC Hospital in December of 2000 to have his large intestine removed.
He appeared to recover until a blood clot got into his spleen. He was in the hospital for three months, during which time doctors removed his spleen. Last August, he went to the hospital for an operation to connect his colon and intestine, and was "doing very well," according to his father, Doug Grey. "He was feeling better and better. He was an athlete, and was starting to feel like himself again."
Growing up in Victoria, Grey demonstrated his athleticism at an early age.
"He was an outstanding soccer player and rugby player, and of course there are lots of people who will remember him for his skiing ability," says Doug. "He was a fitness trainer for the ski club there, and was very into his mountain biking."
Grey had lived in Pemberton for the past five years, and spent the previous 14 years in Whistler. He coached skiing and snowboarding, and was president of the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association for several years. During his tenure there, he helped grow the membership from a few hundred cyclists to more than 1,000 members.
Most recently he has been active in the Pemberton Off Road Cycling Association, where he also served as president, mediating trail access issues.
He was remembered as a bright, optimistic, and inspirational person.
According to Zucht, "He did so many things. He volunteered for everything. He did a lot of outdoor stuff with kids that theyre going to remember. He coached in his spare time and did anything to help people. He was pretty sick for the last two years, and it was tough for him not to be able to do all the things that he used to do."
John Barber, another close friend, said: "Al was never one to back down from adversity. He would always take a stand for what he thought was right, and his right was always a positive. He would help anybody."
Bob Lorriman, also a former WORCA president, said Greys influence can be seen everywhere:
"As Ive known him for the past 12 years, he was always the most optimistic guy. He had been really sick but he was finally on the upswing. He always saw the good in people, the good in a situation, and he was that way until the end.
"When he was president of WORCA, he was a great communicator. He turned us from an old boys group into a mainstream club. He was pretty good at being a moderator, acting as a go-between with the bikers and the muni, and landowners. He was very diplomatic and did a lot to keep trails open. The biking community owes Al a big thanks for the effort he put into it."
Former students of Greys remember him as one of the best teachers theyve ever had, said Lorriman.
As a tribute to Greys love for the outdoors, the family has asked people to donate money to the Al Grey Scholarship Fund, rather than sending flowers. The money will be used to help students pay for an outdoor recreation program that Grey was working on for Pemberton Secondary.
A memorial service will be held in the Sea Ballroom of the Whistler Conference Centre at 1 p.m. on Dec. 29.