Herbie Greene by Chris Nord

Herbie Greene

By Chris Nord

            An old guy I sat next to at the counter of the Agawam Diner recently triggered a flood of memories of my dear old  friend Herbie, senior member of the Last Ones Out the Door affinity group of the Clamshell Alliance.  I’ve missed Herbie the seven or eight years since I last saw him; and I know writing this means I must find out if and when he passed from this world.  For now I want to tell about him.  Though there’s much about Herb that I don’t know, it seems to me that he lived conscientiously,  cherished his and everyone’s freedoms, and  infused his eccentric life with a defiant joy.

            Herb Greene was a combat veteran of World War II.  Even as an old-timer with a slow and increasingly painful walk,  Herbie was clearly a hot-shot; but I only found out by visiting him at his home in Center Sandwich that he flew the F4U Corsair off carriers in the Pacific.  He was a flight instructor who helped to develop the landing protocol that got these very fast planes back on deck safely.  Twice he had to ditch in the Pacific.  He would hone his skills with the fastest plane in the Navy by flying at 200 knots so low to the water that the prop would chop off the wave tops and soak his wind screen.  He accomplished what may have been the only flight along the eastern seaboard on December 7, 1941, having taken off from somewhere on the New England coast early in the morning, on his way to Philadelphia to see his family (I think he said he had simply left his radio was off!).  Two jeeps full of MP’s rushed his plane when he landed in north Jersey for fuel; he finished the trip by train.

            Herbie would often show up for Clam office meetings wearing his “70+ Ski Club” parka.  I wish I had taken a run with him.  In fact, Herb was among the first American ski instructors  hired in the White Mountains after the war by the famous Austrian ski school founder Hannes Schneider – an escapee of his homeland’s takeover by the Nazis in the 1930’s.  I am certain that Herbie’s lifelong love of the outdoors helped form the basis of his ardent environmentalism. 

            I am sketchy about details of the middle years of his life, but I do know that at some point he returned to Philadelphia to drive cabs.  And I know that along the way, he developed a keen sense of the unfairness of America’s class structure; and he evolved an anarchist’s disdain for government’s  abridgment of civil liberties.  By his own account, Herb enjoyed the public scoldings he administered to  his wealthy conservative Harvard chums, through decades of reunions.

            Herbie found his way to us in the late 1980’s, when he retired from cab driving, and returned to New Hampshire to work (for his lawyer son), researching land titles around the state.  Herbie liked to drive.  Unknown to many, Herbie arrived at our door just in time to save Clamshell’s legal butt.  At the time, the Internal Revenue Service was attempting to put a noose around our 501c3 status ; the office had been too busy questioning authority to get those forms in on time –  that is to say, we were way behind.   The mess was not only incomprehensible, it threatened to pull Paul and Billy (Donovan)  away from the organizing work as Seabrook neared completion.  Herb saw the need, understood the jargon, grabbed the paperwork, turned on his considerable personal charm –  and stopped the fed’s full court press.

            Herb remained a loyal friend to Clamshell.  He helped to keep the office afloat right into the early ’90’s, with Meg Rayne and Doug Black’s brave attempt at a canvass on energy efficiency.  And he remained a loyal friend to me.  To my knowledge, the last drive of any distance that Herbie got to make was to visit me in Exeter in the late ’90’s.  May this note do you honor, Herbie.  Much love, Chris

Comments Posted:
4 Comments posted on "Herbie Greene by Chris Nord"
T. Greene on December 15th, 2012 at 8:19 am #

Herb was my grandfather. This article has some stuff that I have heard before, and a lot of things that I haven’t. Several other members of my family have also read this, and it makes us happy to see that there are others who still think fondly of our grandfather as we do. Thanks for sharing.

Eveleth Greene on December 15th, 2012 at 11:41 am #

Herbie was my Grampa (my Dad is the lawyer) and I loved reading your memories of him. He passed away on October 24, 2006 surrounded by his family. We love and miss him very much. Out of curiosity were you ever a speaker for the Clam Shell Alliance for a class at UNH?

Donna Keegan on December 16th, 2012 at 8:01 am #

Lovely memories – Herb was my father-in-law and you have depicted accurately much of who is was and what he stood for in his life. Thank you.

Tom Greene on December 16th, 2012 at 9:41 am #

My dad had a full life and it is great to be reminded of why, and how he shared it with so many. Thanks Chris, and all those others that cared for and remembered him as well.

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