Dooley Greer died this week. He had a stroke in his home and his vital signs left him at Royal Victoria Hospital a few hours later. He was 78. And for three days, Barrie residents whose lives have been touched by the actions and attitudes of this man, have been thinking about him, paying homage to him, and saying goodbye.
I’ve been thinking about Dooley and what he represents to a community that is easily 10 times the size it was when he was a young man starting out in business 50 years ago. What is it about a person that every thing he touches becomes changed by his participation?
He was a complex man with simple presentation styles, the kind of person who made people feel comfortable in their own skin. The list of his achievements is long… his professional life included ownership of a transportation system that provided Barrie with its bus service for many, many years. The Penetang Street bus yards were across the street from the Greer home and employees were like family to Eldon (Dooley) Greer. I remember well a neighbour years ago telling me that as a young man he was a driver for the Greer bus lines. When he was getting married, Dooley sent him up the street to do some tidying around a little property the company owned. That little property became the home for the young couple. Years of living, two children, many additions and improvements later, that home is still in the possession of that young driver.
The bus yard, which sat next to Smith’s Dairy on Penetang Strdeet, are now a family-centred apartment complex, sold by the Greer family in 1990.
When Dooley sold the bus business to Langman Bus Lines in 1968, he didn’t sit idle. For years, he plied his sales skills at Sarjeants Insurance, specializing in the agricultural field, and giving the farm community its very specific insurance attention. It was a specialty few people were interested in maintaining… but this kind of sale suited Dooley’s easy style.
Community Development is a big buzz word these days, but Dooley could be credited with founding the principle. He gave tirelessly, with ease and grace, to almost every facet of Barrie’s life. He served on the town’s Committee of Adjustment, and then as an alderman on Town Council, and then gave a term as mayor in the mid-fifties. His municipal interest lead him to the Police Commission where he served as chairman. And that took him into service work… Dooley was a charter member of Barrie’s first Rotary Club (and president, and district governor, and then a Paul Harris fellow) and on the Thursday before his death, he took his seat with Rotarians he’d known for half a century… kibbitzing with Bert Cook, Arch Brown, Charlie Wilson, Al Secor, Herb Gurr, Frank Hersey. It must have been wonderful for Dooley to enjoy the companionship of colleagues he’d been in business with, and at the same time look across the room at his own son, Bob, who carries on the Greer tradition of community involvement in the same club.
Of the things we think, say or do: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? These are the principles of the Rotary Club are applicable to every aspect of our lives, and certainly Dooley applied them to his work, his faith, his service life and his family.
He served at Collier Street United Church, whose pews on Thursday were heavy with people feeling the loss of his passing. Dooley’s community life expanded past church to embrace the Corinthian Lodge where he served not only as a charter member, but in leadership capacities on a regional and national level.
He served as chairman of Royal Victoria Hospital.
It goes on and on. He served at the helm of his industry, president of both the Ontario Motor Coach Association and the Transportation Safety Association.
I think the thing that always struck me about Dooley was his ability to take time and focus on those he was with. When you spoke with Dooley, his attention was right there with you. He offered stillness, room for words, time for thoughts, and generosity of spirit. I guess I first met him as a Rotarian. But it seems as if I’ve known him in every capacity that Barrie offers.
This is not a man who missed life’s tragedies. He shouldered agonies and survived loss. This man is a person who always ended up at the top, in a leadership role that can consume an interest. It isn’t by accident that someone ends up leading… every single venture that Dooley expressed an interest in saw him eventually lending his own skill set and attitude to its helm. It’s that very special breed of person who looks for a place to contribute, who is ready and willing to share a community load, whose energy touches people in a positive way.
If you look closely at the City of Barrie coat of arms, you’ll see water, rail, military, and agricultural influences. And the motto, The People Are the City. Probably nowhere is that more true than in the life of Dooley Greer.
Good-bye Dooley. And thanks.