Nov. 22, 2005 The commanding, self-assured voice of Jean P. Greaux Jr. heard daily on local radio stations for most of his life belies the soul of a man who reluctantly admits he is actually "shy."
Shyness notwithstanding, Greaux has relentlessly pursued his dream of being on and around radio since he was a14-year-old sophomore at All Saints Cathedral School. He knew that long ago what he wanted.
"I was fascinated by radio all aspects of it," he recalls. "I wanted to know how it worked, what made it work."
He started learning how it worked by "spinning records" filling in for Trent Lawrence at the old Radio One when it was in the Franklin Building. "It was a baptism by fire," Greaux says, "Playing 50s and 60s music there was a generation gap."
But Greaux had ambitions beyond those of being a DJ.
He says his biggest break came in 1986, "when I was given the opportunity for employment at WSTA."
The opportunity didn't exactly fall at his feet. He admits he "sought it out." He says he knew Irvin "Brownie" Brown and Addie Ottley. He pursued them.
Eventually, the late Len Stein, then station owner, hired him. Greaux was 17, and just about to graduate from high school.
He became the co-host of the WSTA news along with Lee Carle and started learning how to gather and report news.
Greaux easily spends 16 to 20 hours a day in his current life absorbed by his job as news director for Knight Quality stations.
He gets up at 3:30 a.m. and is on the road from his Northside home to the station in Gregerie East at 4:15 a.m. The morning newscast starts at 6:05 a.m. and runs for an hour. He also provides the noon newscast and, as Radio One news director, manages the evening news. But Greaux's interest goes beyond gathering and reporting news. He also harkening back to his early curiosity is deeply involved with the engineering and technological operations of the station how it works.
When he started with Randy Knight, after Knight bought the station from Bob Noble after it was blown away by Hurricane Marilyn in 1995, Greaux was on the air more than five hours each day. He co-hosted the morning news back then with Rick Ricardo, who Greaux says was his mentor and inspiration for becoming a newsman. The morning newscast was three hours. He also broadcast a one-hour noon news report and a 90-minute evening newscast.
"One of those dark nights after Marilyn, Leo Moron and I got the news that Thousand Islands [Noble's company] wasn't going to rebuild," he recalls. Not too long after that evening, Greaux ran into Knight and told him the bad news. He says Knight, "immediately expressed an interest in it and the rest is history."
Despite Greaux's obvious commitment to broadcast news, that's not what he thinks of when asked what the most exciting or rewarding moments of his still-young life have been.
Without hesitation he says, "Working with St. Thomas Rescue," which he started doing in 1985 when he was 16.
"There's nothing like being part of an all-volunteer organization dedicated to saving lives," Greaux says. He recalls the rescue squad would pick up emergency calls when the ambulance wasn't available.
What gave him a thrill, he says, was "knowing you could leave your civilian life and more often than not save a life."
He says he got great satisfaction working there. He worked closely with the rescue team for more than 10 years. He dealt with shooting victims, near drownings, heart attacks. But what sticks out in his mind was a woman who had a stroke while driving her car in the parking lot of Lockhart Gardens. "Despite desperate attempts to save her life she died." She was within sight of the Roy L. Schneider Hospital, Greaux says.
"I often think that seeing death first hand gives some immunity when close relatives die."
Greaux has experience with that. His beloved mother Rita died in 1995 shortly after Hurricane Marilyn. His father, after whom Jean was named, died less than two years later. He is an only child.
Greaux speaks of his relationship with Knight as that of an almost father-son connection. He first met Knight when his parents used to take him to the cable television station, owned by Knight at the time, to pay the bill. "Before the days of on-line payments and such," Greaux says.
Later, as a batboy for a softball team that Knight was involved with, Greaux got to know him better.
To say that Greaux started a lot of his interests early in life is something of an understatement.
By the time he was 11 he was the organist for St. Anne's Church in Frenchtown.
"I was catapulted into it" He admits to being fearful even to this day of holidays such as Christmas and Easter because of the complicated music. But his biggest fear was of the middle-aged choir members, "who were much more experienced with the music."
He still plays at St. Anne's every Sunday, right after he finishes playing at the 6:30 a.m. service at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in Estate Mafolie.
"It's my Sunday morning routine," he says, laughing.
But these days Greaux has more than radio, music and volunteering to keep him busy.
A little more than a year ago he married Joanne Berry, whom he says is beautiful both inside and out and whom he credits with "stabilizing my life."
Berry has three daughters from a previous marriage, Melanie, 10, Kelcie, 9, and 7-year-old Lauren. Greaux smiles broadly and speaks almost mystically when he says, "And they all have completely different personalities." He laughs saying, his biggest challenge these days is balancing his four women, who it is clear he is completely enamored of.
Aside from that, Greaux has few heroes. But he does count Peter Jennings as one. "I admired his style and professionalism." He possesses an autographed picture of Jennings. Greaux says he was "struck" by Jennings death earlier this year.
He also credits Bernard Shaw, former CNN anchorman, who Greaux met in 1988 when Shaw was on St. Thomas attending a cable television conference, with his enthusiasm for news. "He spoke with me about excelling in the field of journalism."
Shaw went on to become a household name with his reports from Baghdad, Iraq, in 1991 at the start of the Persian Gulf War.
But mostly Greaux credits his parents and mentors for his success to date. He says his parents taught him the importance of an education, and worked hard to see to it that he went to All Saints. "They always encouraged hard work and dedication." He says of his father, "I still hear his words ringing in my ears, 'don't make promises you can't keep.'"
Greaux hasn't always used his talents on the airwaves. He did a short stint as the public information officer for the V.I. Police Department and following that he went to Government House where he served as press secretary for Gov. Roy L. Schneider. But always he is drawn back to radio.
With 36 years in the territory, during most of which his hand was clearly on the pulse of the community, Greaux doesn't miss a beat when saying "Education" is the most important issue facing the Virgin Islands.
He says for the past 16 years he has listened to politician after politician use "education as a rallying cry." But, he says, "Education is in the most dismal state in the history of the territory."
And he should know, he got his education on St. Thomas where he was born and raised just around the corner from where he works in Frenchtown.
He says the solution is to "dismantle the layers and layers of bureaucracy in the system." He says the proof of the system's deficiencies lies in the young people it has failed.
"Just try to have a conversatio
n with a young person," he says. "They come out of high school and have to take remedial courses before they can go on in college."
What keeps him going?
"No two days are the same," he says.
"I probably won't get rich from it. But there is a satisfaction in walking away from the microphone at 7 a.m. knowing that at least one Virgin Islander is better informed.
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