04.11.16

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy On The Unstoppable Bob Gray

Mr. President, I rise to pay tribute to an extraordinary Vermonter, Robert Hawkes Gray.  Bob, as he is known to family and friends, grew up in Putney where his parents worked at the Putney School, his father Edward in charge of buildings and grounds and his mother Mabel ran the kitchen.  Ed’s ability to fix anything, and Mabel’s cooking and way of keeping order, are remembered vividly and fondly to this day by thousands of Putney graduates.

Bob attended Putney where he learned to ski cross country thanks to Olympian skier John Caldwell, the father of cross country skiing in America who taught at the school.  Bob went on to run the outdoor work program at Putney and coached cross country skiing and running.  He became an Olympian himself, competing in the 1968 and 1972 winter games, and was inducted into Vermont’s Ski and Snowboard Museum Hall of Fame. 

After skiing, Bob’s lifetime passion has been farming.  He and his wife Kim own and manage Four Corners Farm, one of the most successful vegetable and dairy farms in Vermont.  Located on a beautiful hillside that levels off along the Connecticut River in South Newbury, the sprawling acreage of the farm is a model of order and astonishing productivity.  Just about anything that will grow in Vermont, either in fields or in greenhouses heated by wood stoves can be found there in abundance. 

Everyone knows that farm work is hard by any standard.  It means rising before sunrise and long hours of strenuous physical labor that continues into the night.  Anyone who visits Four Corners Farm can’t help but wonder how they do it all.  It’s a testament to the benefits of regular physical exercise, as Bob, now 76, looks closer to 60 and has the strength of someone half his age.  It wasn’t all due to farming though.  It is said that when Jack Dempsey was the World Heavyweight Champion Ed Gray’s biseps measured the same diameter.  Of course, Ed was an accomplished gardener himself. 

I could go on about Bob’s talents as a farmer.  A teacher by instinct, anyone who visits the farm may find themselves treated to a lesson in pruning tomato plants, planting and mulching strawberry seedlings, or the peculiar habits of honey bees.  Kim, a former alpine ski racer herself, is also a gifted farmer whose stamp on the business can be seen everywhere.  Neither could have made Four Corners Farm what it is today without the other.

 

Bob never stopped skiing for fun, but he didn’t take up racing again until the 1990s.  This past winter he showed that if you love something enough, and give it everything you’ve got, just about anything is possible. 

 

At the World Masters cross country ski races in Voukatti, Finland, and at the National Masters at Royal Gorge, California, Bob won a gold medal, two silvers, and a bronze.  Some might think that by the time you get to be 76 you are probably skiing pretty slowly and there isn’t that much competition in your age group anyway.  Let’s just say that at the Masters no one skis slowly.  No one skis anything remotely like slowly.  These are the best skiers in the world, and to the rest of us mere mortals there isn’t that much difference between them and today’s Olympians.

 

A March 31, 2016, article in the Valley News, entitled “Septuagenarian Gray Skiing His Way to Wins” tells the story.  I congratulate Bob Gray.  He exemplifies the very best of Vermont for his inspiring work ethic, his ski racing accomplishments, and the example he has set for future generations of Vermont skiers and farmers.  I ask unanimous consent that the article be printed in the Record. 

 

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