Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Fine Young Man Remembered

I don't know how you spent your Saturday this glorious weekend, but my wife and I joined well over 100 other people to spend a big part of our day at a memorial service for a young neighbor.
As I approach six dozen years on this earth it's not unusual to observe the passing of friends and neighbors.  Usually they have been friends or relatives my parent's age and some my age in increasing numbers.  It is especially sad, however, when we mark the passing of a person young enough to be my child.

Saturday a large group of family, friends, neighbors and teammates met to celebrate the life of Michael Stanley Grier, who may have been the greatest of many great water polo players to learn their skills at Newport Harbor High School.  Not only was Mike a terrific swimmer and water polo player at Newport Harbor, he went on to college and became one of the very best players in this country.
 (Mike is in the second row, second player from the right)
Twice Mike was named the NCAA Most Valuable Player and he played for the United States on many national teams.  Do a Google search for Mike Grier+Water Polo to see much, much more about his career.
(Mike is front row, third from left)
Saturday we sat and listened to some of his teammates and friends describe not only Mike the champion water polo player, but Mike, the friend.  We heard James Bergeson, his friend and teammate since they were twelve years old, describe how Mike - the gentle giant - transformed from an easy-going, always-smiling, fun-loving pal into the hardest playing, most dominant man in the pool.  He was described as a man with tremendous desire to win, with the skills and leadership to help his teammates to do just that.  He told us what it was like for two young fellas with remarkable skills who loved playing their sport and who just enjoyed each other's company.  He talked about how Mike led their team to a CIF championship, then went on to college where they competed against each other.
And we listened as his young daughter, Emma, sang two songs dedicated to her father.  There were few dry eyes in the room...
Mike Grier was the very first person I remember seeing the day my wife and I moved into our house almost 40 years ago.  He was eleven then and I recall noticing this nice looking, clean-cut young kid down the block.  That was just about the time he began his career in the pool, so we didn't see him often since he and his pals spent hours and hours in the pool, at least six days a week.  And, we lost track of him when he went off to college and then played water polo internationally.
(Mike is top row, third from the right)
In recent years, though, Mike has been a regular presence again in our neighborhood as he would visit his parents frequently and only lived a few blocks away with his wife, Angela, and their daughter.  He's had a variety of careers since water polo, most recently a very successful dog training business.  From time to time we would just sit and chat about business and life. He was a happy, successful man and a loving husband and father.  And he was my friend.
A few months ago, during the course of his business, he was scratched by one of the dogs, which led to an infection that his weakened immune system couldn't handle.  On the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend - after six weeks battling his illness in intensive care at Hoag Hospital and a few days in another care facility -  that tenacious, brave, happy, loving man - a leader with the heart of a champion - passed away at 51 years of age.

On the back cover of the program distributed to us at the memorial service Saturday was the following image created by his daughter.  During the service Emma told us that his father's favorite movie was "It's a Wonderful Life", and his favorite line from that movie was the one at the top of the image.  I think Emma got it right.  I will miss my young friend, but will rejoice at the impact he had on our community, on his sport and as a wonderful father, husband, son, brother and friend.

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Blogger kwahlf said...

My condolences to you, his family and other friends, Geoff.
He was indeed a fine young man.

6/24/2013 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger Mike H. said...

What a terrible, sad loss. My condolences to you and his family and friends.

6/24/2013 12:19:00 PM  
Anonymous No Bridge and Happy said...

Mike was a classmate of mine and a real good fellow. I am truly sad for his early passing and pray for those he loved that they celebrate having known such a good man.

7/06/2013 04:05:00 PM  
Blogger Angela G. said...

Geoff, what a beautiful tribute to Michael, thank you. I'm also grateful for the friendship you both had. Thank you again, Angela & Emma

8/08/2013 04:39:00 PM  

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