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Larry Greene, Former Dravo VP-Sales, Died In August

Larry A. Greene, former vice president of sales for shipbuilder Dravo Corporation in the late 1970s and early 1980s, died August 15, at the age of 81.

A native of Decatur, Ill., Greene was born on October 1, 1936. As a child, Greene was adopted, but after his adoptive parents divorced, he ran away from home as a 15 year old.

“He was a handful as a teen,” his son John Greene said. “He went to New York City, lied about his age and got a job washing windows on sky scrapers.”

Four years later, Greene moved back to Decatur and married his first wife, Sandra. Within the year, John was born. Another son, Michael, was born five years later. In the years that followed, Greene earned his high school equivalency diploma at age 22 and first discovered a talent for sales.

“He worked at Smith Tire in Decatur, where he started as an installer and was later promoted to tire sales,” John Greene said. “One day, an insurance executive was buying tires from our dad and recruited him to sell insurance to farmers in Central Illinois. He moved up the ranks during our childhood.”

Greene spent about 20 years in insurance with New York Life. Then a neighbor, Niland “Mort” Mortimer, a maritime industry veteran, took a senior management position with Dravo.

“He recruited Dad to relocate to Pittsburgh and run the sales operation at the Neville Island shipyard,” John Greene said. “Dad jumped at the chance to change careers, and he sold over $150 million in barges and towboats during his first few years at Dravo.”

Michael Greene said his father purchased a house overlooking the Ohio River in the Pittsburgh area and would often point out vessels he had “built” for various clients.

“He was a superb deal maker, creative in his approach and loved by a lot of people in the industry,” Michael Greene said.

Both of Greene’s sons worked as deckhands during summer breaks to help pay for their college tuition and world travels.

By the early 1980s, times were tough at Dravo, as they were throughout the maritime industry. The Neville Island shipyard closed in 1982. In transition again, Greene relocated to Southern Alabama where he and his son, Michael, built a home near the Fish River. Greene continued his career in the maritime industry and went on to insure vessels and purchase and refurbish barges.

“He worked closely with Childress Marine in their day-to-day operations out of Bon Secour, Ala., for the past 35 years,” John Greene said. “Both Bruce Childress and his son, Don, were extremely close friends and business associates with Dad.”

Larry and wife, Donna, had a passion for breeding and showing dogs for over 40 years. He was a master dog handler and showed several of his Irish wolfhounds and border terriers to championship.

Later in life, Greene set out to investigate his origins. He discovered that his biological father had been a prominent banker in Decatur. Also through his investigation, Greene discovered he had an older half brother who was still alive and living in Phoenix, Ariz.

“Once they confirmed through 23andMe that they were indeed brothers, my dad—who refused to fly—drove three days by himself from Alabama to Arizona to meet his long lost brother,” John Greene said. “Michael and I both flew to Arizona to support him during this reunion. It was amazing.”

John Greene said his newfound uncle, Ray Downey, had a stroke the night before he and Greene were to meet. However, Downey rebounded after meeting his half brother and lived another six months.

“He caught a ‘second wind,’ and my dad and Ray talked every day for the rest of Ray’s life,” John Greene said. John and Michael Greene, in turn, connected with their cousins and extended family, and they’ve stayed in touch and even spent holiday time together.

“It’s been a wonderful experience being ‘Larry’s sons,’” John Greene said.

“We won the ‘Dad Lottery’ big time, and we will all miss him dearly,” Michael Greene said.

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