Greg was flown home to Ireland for the funeral before returning to the ITV show, which he and his on-screen partner Amber Gill eventually won.
Now the Limerick man is training to run the London Marathon in October in memory of his grandmother Monica to raise money for Alzheimer’s research.
“I was actually at Love Island when she died,” recalls Greg (27). “I felt a little silly not being there and all the other family was there. I just feel like I owe him something. I know she wouldn’t expect that.
“I just feel like I have to do something to try to help raise money for Alzheimer’s research, because of the upheaval my family has been through.
“I would hate for another family to have to go through this, so if I can do a little to raise money to help catch this Alzheimer’s earlier, it might help families go through less stress.”
Greg then recalls being told that his grandmother had died while he was filming in Mallorca.
“It was very upsetting, it kind of caught me off guard,” he told the Sunday World. “I knew she was a little sick before I left, but I didn’t think she had literally a few days left.
“She passed away while I was in the villa. My parents told ITV they didn’t need to tell me because I wouldn’t have given anything to the show and they were trying to arrange funerals and all that.”
But once the funeral was arranged, ITV producers broke the news to Greg.
“I remember they took me out of the villa and brought me to Portakabin. It was actually Caroline Flack’s Portakabin,” he adds. “They told me. I wouldn’t be a man to cry. I’d be like a stereotypical, very tough Irish boy who wouldn’t cry. But that kind of grabbed me.
“Because I just felt like a jerk sitting in Mallorca with some beautiful people on this really famous show and my whole family is with my grandma for the past few days, I just felt kinda silly.
“I think that’s kind of why I have to do something in the back of my head, like put in a bit of effort here and try to help the families and their struggle.”
He had the opportunity to return home.
“So the next day I went straight back to Ireland,” he explains. “I had two bodyguards with me. I had a hat and my face covered. I went straight from the villa to the funeral, buried my grandmother and then flew straight back.
“They gave me the option – ‘you don’t have to come back if you don’t want to’. But my family was like ‘of course what are you going to do, you’re just going to sit in Ireland and watch the show with all of us’.
“It was kind of the age-old cliché, ‘your grandma wants you to come in and do your best, so come back and have a little fun’. I did and ended up winning. “
Despite being told of the shock news while away from home, Greg says he felt more at ease when told how kind-hearted the staff from the hospital had facilitated the death of his grandmother.
“A lovely little story my family told me, that my nana when she died in the nursing home the nurses put Love Island in the background in her room and I was on a screen and talking” , he said.
“So I like to think that in her last two hours before she passed away, she heard me talking in the background, even though it was on TV.
“It’s kind of a good idea and it’s really cool that the nurses did that because they realized it was my grandma and they just put it in. Obviously she wasn’t able to sit down to watch TV, but even though I was in the background, it was a nice touch.
Greg’s grandfather was from Hong Kong and when he emigrated to Ireland in the 1960s he traveled to Limerick, where he opened one of Limerick’s first Chinese restaurants and also met Monica on the local social scene.
“I guess at the time, it was not the most common thing, mixed-race couples,” he confirms. “Even traveling this far from Hong Kong to Ireland in the 1960s was unheard of. So I would say it was a bit like ‘you see Irish with Chinese’. She was known around Limerick as the name of Monica Ho.
“Even my mother would have settled this with my father. My father is a boy from Limerick, born and brought up in Ireland. My mom looks pretty Asian because of her dad. It’s all in the past, it doesn’t exist anymore, there are so many mixed-race couples all over the world.
Monica was 70 when she died.
“He is still relatively young these days to die,” he said. “She was a real independent woman. She was all about it. She loved to dress up. She would never be caught off guard, she always looked good.
“It’s just to see them deteriorate before your eyes and start losing your mind.”
Greg points out that so far the longest distance he has walked is 5 km. Known as a sprinter and also a rugby player, this will be a new level for him.
“It’s a ridiculous challenge that I don’t know if I’ll be able to do it but mentally I’m just gonna have to remember for nana and keep trudging and keep putting one foot in front of the other and hopefully that I will go all the way,” he reflected.