Following in the footsteps of Hall of Fame coxswain Sandy Greeley, the Greeley family has carved out an incredible niche in the sport provincially
For many, the Royal St. John’s Regatta is a day off that only bolsters the idea of fun in the sun – a welcome respite from work and duties, and a built-in excuse to pop a cold one and enjoy the summer heat down at Quidi Vidi Lake. For the Greeley family, the Regatta – and the sport of rowing of which it champions – are something of a religion.
Kevin Greeley can scarcely remember a time in his life that didn’t have rowing, in some capacity.
“My first memory is my dad working at the boat house, for 10 or 12 years,” he shared in a sit down with The Herald. “There were days he’d take us out at six o’clock in the morning when he’d open up the boathouse and we’d be there with him all day long. It was great, we’d get to meet all the old guys. It was exciting.”
A Rowing Legend
Kevin’s father, Sandy Greeley, was a rowing legend on the Avalon. Inducted into the Royal St. John’s Regatta Hall of Fame in 2011 as a coxswain, Sandy was known as one of the patriarch’s of rowing in the Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s area, serving as one of the chief architects of the annual Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s Regatta.
Sandy passed away on January 5th of this year, leaving behind a legacy of excellence and character that lives on through his family.
“We knew he was a well respected man from his Regatta years. But it was overwhelming how many people actually showed up and paid their respects,” Kevin explains.
Sandy and his wife of 57 years, Barbara, developed quite the crew of rowers, though Kevin is quick to admit the sport was never impressed upon him by his father. “He didn’t push that on us at all. Everything fell in place as we came of age. He wasn’t one to get us out there, because back in those days you had to be 14 before you could actually get in the boat. Once the time came, we approached him. He never pushed to get us involved, but it seemed everyone in the family became involved.
A Family Affair
“All of the sons and daughters, all of the immediate family, have rowed at some point. A few years ago he had the privilege of steering his wife and his five daughters in one boat. He has, with me and my brother Robert and Cyril, we’ve rowed with him as well.”
Today, five of Sandy Greeley’s grandchildren are readying to row in the Royal St. John’s Regatta, while Kevin and his brother Robert both will participate as coxswains.
“It’s great to be able to be involved. Because of the stature of it, it’s probably the biggest thing I’ll be involved with in my lifetime,” Kevin admits. “I’ll never get to 300. It’s great, because you want to be in that big celebration.”
Few sports demand the art of team-building and cooperation quite like rowing. Making the entire endeavour a family affair is all the more interesting.
“That’s probably the hardest, because you have so many personalities that have grown up together and the friction you can have between your siblings,” Kevin says with a laugh of rowing with his kin. “It’s tough but it’s rewarding as well.”
Recalling his father’s induction into the Royal St. John’s Regatta Hall of Fame in 2011, the proud son reflects on just how honoured the man who dedicated so much of his life to the sport was to the acknowledgment.
“He was really excited about it. It’s not something he ever thought about, being inducted. But when it happened it was something he was really excited about. He loved it, and we were really proud.”
As for the sport of rowing itself, it is something that has bonded the Greeley family together for decades, strengthening ties and building traits that will go on generations. And that’s something money can’t buy.
“We all enjoy it,” says Kevin. “We look forward to this time of year because we’re always involved, and I guess we were brought up with it. There was no pressure put on us to get involved, but we all jumped in one way or another, even with the Regatta in Portugal Cove. That was something that brought us together even more. When it comes to that time of year we all get together and start planning with a lot of people from the area. It’s something we look forward to getting to do.”