Kenton's Legacy

By Michael Collier 


Kenton Grua had doubts about the theory of plate tectonics.  He wondered if giant convection currents might be bubbling up from below, rather than ordinary old plates passively sliding around on the surface.  Crazy?  Maybe, maybe not.  Kenton wasn’t in the habit of letting thoughts just drift away, certainly not one this big.  You had to take Kenton seriously because after all he was the Factor.  He’d been first to hike the full length of Grand Canyon. With two others in 1983, he set the speed record for rowing the Canyon: 37 hours.  Think about it: 37 hours from Lees Ferry to the Grand Wash Cliffs.  Rowing.  He’d lasted only a few months in college back in the 60s, but his wife Michelle wonders if he would have gone back in order to pursue his notions about convection currents.  Yes, the letters would have looked nice next to his name: Dr. Factor.  But in 2002 Factor, age 52, died unexpectedly while bicycling on Mt. Elden.  Suddenly our world seemed a little flatter, a little less vibrant.

Johnny Janssen and Sandy Reiff weren’t willing to watch Factor’s legacy slip away.  Michelle Grua, Jon Stoner, and Roberta Motter were Whale Foundation board members who transformed Janssen and Reiff’s early ideas into the Kenton Grua Memorial Scholarship to aid boatmen whose lives were in transition.  So far, over 40 Grand Canyon guides have received these scholarships toward careers beyond the river – nursing, writing, engineering, whatever.  Here’s the deal: if you're a guide in the Grand for and if you’re serious about pursuing a new career above the rim, the Whale Foundation might be able to contribute a couple grand toward the cost of your education.