The family of the late Carl LeGrow fondly remember the man who gave so much to others
Sharon LeGrow will proudly tell anyone that Carl LeGrow was her brother. The youngest of 13 in the LeGrow family, Sharon shares that Carl was the fourth oldest so she always looked up her older brother as a hard worker and a real ‘‘doll.’’
“Carl sold the Sunday Herald, the Daily News, as well as The Evening Telegram for 54 years, starting at age nine,” she begins. Just over five years ago, Carl had a fall while selling his papers at Atlantic Place and broke his hip.
Just prior to that, Carl was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Sadly, both circumstances would end Carl’s paper selling career.
But Carl was so much more than the man many saw on Water Street. “He was a very dedicated member of the Waterford Hospital Lions Club for 31 years. Carl had perfect attendance,” his sister shares proudly.
Steve LeGrow also remembers his brother with fond memories. “When Carl was born the year after Newfoundland and Labrador joined Confederation, things were different. If you were perceived different, society looked at you in a very different light,” he begins.
Finding a way to give
Carl never learned to walk until he was almost four years old, his brother recalls. There were learning difficulties as well. Steve recalls that Carl often said he was the only person to ever repeat kindergarten.
In the late 1950s Vera Perlin began changing lives. “Ms. Perlin was educated to teach children with developmental disabilities,” Steve says.
While attending the Vera Perlin school, Carl excelled, his family shares. He was taught so much. From working with his hands to produce simple twine furniture to hooking wool rugs. Carl found a way to give back, too, often auctioning or selling to assist in funding for the school that helped him so much. Carl was even commissioned to make rugs for the government of the day, some of which were proudly hung in public buildings. “Every rug was done perfect,” says Steve.
During Carl’s childhood he also helped his neighbours.
“Carl would bring home pieces of scrap wood and make splits used to light the fire in the morning. It was many a day Carl could be seen on the sidewalk making splits with his small axe. Each split was the same size and shape. Not sure how he done it. The splits were delivered to neighbors who could not make or afford to buy splits,” shares Steve proudly.
Carl was given a “few pennies” for his efforts and he began to save money.
Becoming a legend
Carl’s newspaper career began at the age of nine, encouraged by his father. The first papers he sold was The Sunday Herald. Says Steve; “Carl had one customer who operated a farm near where the Village Mall stands today. Carl would walk from Lime Street to the farm to deliver this one paper each week.” Carl’s efforts did not go unnoticed.
“Before long Mr. Geoff Stirling came to our house on Lime Street to honour Carl. A proud moment for Carl to get a new bike and a monetary gift. The gift was $400 and a new bike. The $400 was a month’s salary for my Dad. Carl could not ride a bike, he walked everywhere, so Carl gave me the bike,” his brother says proudly.
Carl spent 55 plus years on Water Street selling papers, becoming both a fixture and a legend.
“When the businesses in the downtown core were going through difficult times, the talk on the street was there were only two people making money on Water Street; John Murphy (owner of Arcade and former Mayor) and Carl LeGrow.”
Carl could be seen on Water Street no matter the weather, usually starting his day at four in the morning. He sold papers to the majority of this province’s Premiers, starting with Joey Smallwood. He sold papers to lawyers, judges, taxi drivers, bus drivers, homeless, the rich, the poor; the list goes on. The one thing all those people had in common was they got a few kind words from Carl, and the politicians often received some solid advise.
Besides selling papers, Carl’s family was very important to him. So was the Lions Club. Carl even met his wife Diane at the Lions club. Diane was the love of his life. Beyond the life lived working hard to make a dollar for his family and for the organizations he supported, Carl was simply “a doll.”
Words used to describe him are generous, funny, kind, and a good friend. Steve has some final, meaningful words.
“Carl was a decent loving man who never had an enemy in the world. If all of us only lived our life like Carl. So many fond memories. Life is better for having had him there. He has touched so many hearts.”