Walsh on the river, demonstrating the perfect form that made him an Olympic Champion
This month on the “Moving On” Gentle Giant Alumni Bio Blog, we are featuring 2008 Olympic Bronze Medalist and Master Mover Dan Walsh. Dan’s accomplishments make everyone at Gentle Giant so proud, and we are privileged to have worked with him during his world class rowing career.
I started with Gentle Giant the summer of 2000 while I was in summer classes at Northeastern University. Dave Lister and Rob Leaver came to the Northeastern Boathouse when I was a freshman to talk about the opportunity to work at Gentle Giant. It was instant connection to the NU Rowers since NU rowers started GG.
What brought you to Gentle Giant?
It was a really simple decision: I was able to make good money on my schedule, the work was compliment to my training, and to me hard work is fun.
Dan on the water in his spiffy Gentle Giant rowing uni-suit.
What GG location did you work out of mostly? And with who?
I have only worked out of [Gentle Giant HQ in] Somerville, the GG original. My training was with Rooty and back then that meant going to homes where the furniture had to be problem solved. I remember getting into a box truck with the big dude who is a living GG legend. The only thing bigger than Rooty was his smile to the guys in the truck and the homeowners.
There was a dresser that was 4 times as wide as a normal dresser that NEEDED to go into the master bedroom. The crew on the job was at a stalemate with the staircase and a sharp turn along with freshly painted walls. Rooty takes out the measuring tape, checks the dresser, ceiling, stairs, doorway, hallway, looks at me as says “Think you can lift that end?” Not like I really had a choice, so I listened to his instructions, straight pick here, coffin carry there, lift a bit higher, and lower your end. BOOM dresser is in the bedroom, no scratches, breaks, or tears.
What was your favorite part of working at Gentle Giant?
That’s easy, the people! It’s a great group of smart people who really enjoy life. Giants have big hearts and great stories, there is never a boring day on the trucks with the right group, never a bad day with a good crew, and there is always a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
Dan with his crew members pose with Oprah Winfrey
What in your past prepared you to become a successful Gentle Giant?
I was a Division I rower for Northeastern University so I had the fitness, but that was always tested when I had 4th floor walk-up to another 4th floor walkup with Tommy Travers.
Who did you look up to at Gentle Giant and why?
Rooty Leonard because of the way he treated his fellow Giants and interacted with the customer. The guy is a Zen master with so much strength. To be that strong and gentle is truly an art. Also, Tom Travers because of how much he drives his crew and makes you earn your stripes to be a “stair guy”.
What was the toughest piece you ever moved? How did you do it?
The toughest piece was one of those wooden playground sets in a back yard. It was a house to house and they were on the same street with two houses in between them. The job was going over time and we didn’t have the tools to take it apart so we decided to just carry it across the back yards. We got permission from the neighbors, walked to the playground set and of course it was settled about 8 inches into the ground. The 5 of us each got under a support beam and squatted, dead lifted, or pressed this thing out of the ground. Well now it was out of the ground so we start carrying it across the yards not realizing there was a 3-foot retaining wall between the last two yards. So one more time we got grips, used some muscle, and pressed the playground up over the wall. The Giants got it in the back yard.
Was there something you learned at Gentle Giant that helped you achieve success at the 2008 Beijing Olympics?
Pushing through the work will have a positive outcome if you are all in it together.
What advice could you give current Giants about pursuing their own career goals?
Nothing in life worth doing is easy. If it was everyone would be successful. You need to be the main driver in your life and cannot wait for something to fall into your lap. You need people to help you along the way but they are more willing to help if they see you pushing yourself.
Describe your career now, and what your goals for the future look like.
I am now a Division I rowing coach for my Alma Mater, Northeastern University. I believe I want to stay in the coaching field and be a head coach one day.
Dan and Tyrone
Have you/would you recommend Gentle Giant as a good place to work, and why?
I would never hesitate recommending GG to someone I believed had the ability to follow in the footsteps of Giants. I would not recommend it to everyone; it takes special people who have strength physically, mentally, and emotionally. The customer needs to see all three of those on every job. Not everyone is cut out for that.
What are your hobbies, interests, or passions outside of Gentle Giant?
I like to be outdoors, making ice cream, and helping others achieve their goals.
Tell us a little about your family and where you live:
I grew up in Norwalk, CT the youngest of 4. I now live in Watertown with my beautiful wife Keri and our dog Tyrone.