If you have been a regular visitor to Aggie Gre’ys Hotel and later the Sheraton Aggie Grey Resort in the past two and a half decades, then you will no doubt be calling Sooalo “Kirk” Murray either a close friend, brother or at the very least, a close acquaintance. That’s because Kirk would have welcomed you in, attended to your every need, and treated you like family.
Sooalo has dedicated the past 25 years to what locals and travellers affectionately know as simply, Aggie’s. Today, Sooalo reflects back as he and his family celebrate 25 years of his service to the hotel and tourism industry. His story is one of humble beginnings, hard work and dedication, that starts and continues today, at the Sheraton Aggie Grey’s Hotel.
Sooalo is on-point when he describes his journey with the Samoan proverb, “O le ala i le pule, o le tautua” – “The way to leadership, is service”.
Kirk takes us way back to his first day at Aggie Grey’s, on the 16th of January 1996.
“I remember that first day, when Geoffrey Clarke, now owner of SOS; he was the bar manager at the time, and he was taking me up to see Mr. Alan Grey for my first ever job interview”.
Sooalo says Alan Grey asked him a question that has stayed etched in his mind since that day, and has became the foundation of his work ethic for the past 25 years.
“Kirk, e ke iloa salu le okoka?” “Kirk, do you know how to sweep rubbish?”
“I nodded yes. And so my journey started with Aggie Grey’s Hotel..
“The same place where my father met my mother in 1973..”
“A place so close to my heart that words cannot explain..”
Sooalo Kirk’s journey began as a porter, responsible for guest luggage, daily guest needs, and basically anything anybody needed.
“I began as a porter, but always ensuring to sweep the rubbish as the old man had asked”.
Within 3 years, Alan Grey was noticing the young man’s dedication and Kirk was promoted to Concierge Director in 1999, where he would manage the team of porters. From there he was promoted to barman, a role he would maintain for over two decades and when the resort became Sheraton Aggie Grey’s, Kirk landed himself a senior role as Assistant Food and Beverage Manager until two years ago, when the ‘assistant’ dropped off and Sooalo was once again promoted to lead the team, as Food and Beverage Manager.
“Safe to say, I moved from department to department”, he says.
In poetic elegance, Sooalo writes from the heart to describe what Aggie Grey’s Hotel had become for him as a person.
“Never did I know on that first day, that 25 years later, I would be here in the same hotel, and that in this job, I would raise my family..
“I would meet people who I am fortunate enough to call brothers and sisters…
“A place that I can call my second family. A place where I am able to keep learning. A place where I have created long lasting memories. A place where I can look back and say…hmmmmm, I was, I am, and I will always be, a part of that great place…
“As I sit and look back on what this journey has been like. It brings tears to my eyes and overwhelming joy”.
Kirk cannot reflect back without mentioning his close friend and brother, the late Papaliitele Peter ‘Fats’ Fatialofa. Fats had been a well-loved captain of the Manu Samoa, and was playing his last year of international rugby when the pair met in 1996. Kirk was 20 and Fats was 37 but they shared the same down-to-earth spirit, humble nature and giving heart. So it was no surprise that the two of them would hit it off and become best friends over the next 17 years. When Fats passed away suddenly in November 2013, Kirk was devastated.
“He had become my best friend, confidant, mentor and brother. I learnt so much from him and still miss him today,” says Sooalo.
Sooalo gives praise to God for the past 25 years.
“I thank you Heavenly Father, for always having my back through the good and the not so good times..
“I want to thank my family, who have in part taken this journey along with me..
“And I leave you with the lesson I have kept as a principle all these years..
“Sweeping the rubbish may seem small, but sometimes it is the smallest job, that makes the biggest difference”.
Sooalo’s 25 years of service to Aggie Grey’s and Sheraton, has also been a great service to the Samoa tourism industry. Faafetai Sooalo Kirk. Malo le fai o le faiva. Alofagia e Le Atua au fuafuaga uma mo le lumanai.