When it came to enjoying and protecting nature, Greg Blair’s passion was unbridled.
“He loved nature more than anybody I’ve personally known,” said Trish Blair, his former wife.
On Monday Greg Blair, 44, was killed while doing what he loved — enjoying the outdoors. At the time, according to local media reports, he was snorkeling in Maui's Hoolawa Bay when a neighbor found him unresponsive.
Blair was an outdoor enthusiast, music lover and long-time Canton businessman. For 16 years, he and Trish ran Country Sports on Route 44, a retailer of outdoor adventure clothing and gear, before closing it by choice in 2009, Trish Blair said. The two were also married for many years, and although they divorced a few years ago, stayed close.
Greg Blair was great at getting people excited about the outdoors, which worked well from a social, environmental and business standpoint, said his former employee and close friend Dan Phelan.
“Even though he was masterful at a number of extreme sports, he also had an incredible talent for getting people excited about going outside,” Phelan said. “His storytelling abilities were the stuff of legend, and he was very adept at transferring his own stories of playing outside to convince and excite people about buying products from the shop.”
It also turned the shop into a “familial environment,” where people would come in to share stories or say hello, Phelan said.
Blair spread that love of the outdoors to many others, including local scouting groups, to whom he also spoke on numerous occasions.
Blair's own adventures took him all over the world. Some highlights included climbing volcanoes in Ecuador and Mexico, touring Scotland by bicycle and recently spending time in New Zealand, Trish Blair said.
“His zest for life — he had so much,” she said. “It was endless.”
Closer to home, growing up in Burlington and later living in Pine Meadow and Canton, Blair spent countless hours biking the Litchfield Hills, mountain biking in Nepaug State Forest, kayaking in the Farmington River and spending time in the Adirondacks and the White Mountains.
He spent the last year or so living on the island of Maui, Trish Blair said, working on a farm and a little for the people he rented from. But mostly he enjoyed living on the ocean and taking on new outdoor adventures, such as surfing.
“He ended up creating sort of his dream life. He was really embracing his life and really lived it,” she said. “It makes sense that he would shoot through this life beautifully.”
He was also very into finding and focusing on the positive, she said.
“He was all about feeling love and in his life just surrounded himself with love, she said. “It’s what attracted me to him.”
He developed many close, loyal friends.
“In our lives, we eventually cross paths with someone that has the ability to light up every space they walk into, and for me that person was Greg Blair,” Phelan said. “Not only did he and Trish hire me to work at Country Sports on my 16th birthday, they somehow let me continue to work there for the next five years. During that time, Greg transformed from my boss into what equates to the hybrid of a cool older brother and a wacky uncle.”
Phelan said Blair’s love of the outdoors was infectious and turned him from someone who liked to hike a little into an avid outdoors lover.
Blair was also a huge music fan as any Country Sports customer knew. More often than not it was the Grateful Dead emanating from the speakers but reggae or the music of David Grisman were not uncommon.
Greg Blair played congas in a house band at the Cambridge Brew House in Granby and was a member of the local band No Aloha.
In the last few years he became involved in gong therapy and played with a local group called Conduit.
Greg Blair was a 1987 graduate of Lewis Mills High School in Burlington and went on to attain a business degree from Curry College, where he and Trish met. Shortly after he and Trish opened Country Sports.
Greg Blair’s parents Jean and Mark still live in the area as does his brother Michael.
Greg Blair’s death hit hard in the Canton community this week. Facebook pages quickly filled with tributes, photos, videos and special memories.
Many recalled his numerous adventures in nature, on stage and at Country Sports.
Phelan shared these thoughts:
“I doubt I'll ever meet someone who was able to pack as many incredible adventures into their lifetime as Greg did during the 44 years he was with us,” Phelan said. “And even in death, he was doing something that he loved. Something I take solace in knowing, along with the solace that comes along with knowing he lived most of his life on his own terms, owned a great business that was the envy of every teenager and twenty something with a love of the outdoors, and somebody that was able to make anyone laugh, at any time, under just about every circumstance. Even though we'll never share a Sierra Nevada on the back loading dock at Country Sports ever again, I'll keep the memory of our friendship with me every time I'm on the lift at Sundown, the woods in Nepaug, or buying outdoor gear at full retail. Rest in peace Greg. See you around the bend.”