Hernando County recently lost a beloved philanthropist, humanitarian, World War II-era veteran, active member of the Temple Beth David congregation for twenty-seven years and friend to many in our community and, indeed, all over the world. Mel Greene passed away on Tuesday, March 24. Mel was ninety-two years-old and he succumbed to a ruptured aneurysm.
Rabbi Paul Schreiber of Temple Beth David recalls first meeting Mel in 2016, “I came to Spring Hill to lead Sabbath services as part of the interview process for the position of rabbi. After the service, I was approached by Mel and he told me how much he loved the service. He went on to say how he would have loved it even more if I had chosen to wear a tie! Since that day, Mel never let me forget his desire for me to wear ties more often. When I had the honor of reciting the traditional Jewish prayers over his body the day after he passed, I made sure to wear, not only my favorite tie but a formal suit, as well. Mel would have been very proud!”
As a parent, you try to set a good example for your children and Mel did. His only son, Daniel Greene (Danny), an actor, lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with his wife, LaGena. Danny reminisced about his father.
“From an early age, I saw the value of giving back. What an example of a man who lived with integrity.”
Danny visited his dad for the last time two months ago and recounts how they were in the car, singing “My Way” along with Frank Sinatra. They got to a stoplight and hugged each other. Danny kissed his Dad on the cheek and said to him, ‘Papa you sure did it. You did it your way with God as your pilot.’”
Originally from Hartford, Connecticut, Greene served three years in the military from 1946 to 1948. He belonged to the 82nd Army Airborne Division, learning to pack a parachute and jump out of planes at Ft. Benning, Georgia. He remained an active member of the 82nd Army Airborne Division Association. In 2017 Mel was honored as that year’s 82nd Airborne-All American Medal of Honor Award Winner.
He was a Rotarian for nearly fifty years and after moving to Spring Hill from Coral Gables, Florida he became active in the Rotary Club of Spring Hill.
Carol McElroy, a fellow Rotarian, remembers him fondly, “He was an outstanding human being and the world is a better place because he lived. He and I were friends for nearly thirty years and he actually helped shape who I am as a Rotarian and a business person.
Mike Prescott, president of the organization stated, “He was the most generous, kindest, considerate and compassionate person I think I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He loved Rotary and its ideals of “Service Above Self.” We in Rotary loved and respected Mel Greene. He will be truly missed.”
One of the local charities that Greene supported was People Helping People (PHP), an organization dedicated to ending hunger and breaking the cycle of poverty in Hernando County. His wife, Judith, was one of the founders of PHP. Judy and Mel were married for sixty-two years before she passed away in 2014. After her death, he remained an active supporter of PHP, even donating his wife’s vintage VW Beetle to the organization to help raise money for their HELP center.
“Often Mel encouraged others to donate to fundraisers by offering to match any contribution they made. As a result, Mel donated tens of thousands of dollars to building the HELP Center. Mel was a man of honor, good character, generosity, and integrity,” remarked Doug Brainard, President of PHP Board of Directors.
Another local non-profit that Greene aided was Veterans HEAT Factory (VHF). This small, but vital, organization works with veterans, active military personnel and first responders who are battling Post Traumatic Stress and other issues and helps them become more productive members of society.
In helping Veterans HEAT Factory, Greene stated, “I’m a World War II veteran. I went to the site and saw what they were doing to help the veterans and I was impressed.”
Gus Guadagnino, founder and CEO of VHF commented, “At one point, we were running out of money and then I get a check in the mail from Mel. In my last conversation with him, I told him that these men and women said because of VHF, they are alive today. If we were not able to keep the doors open, who knows?”
The Arc Nature Coast is another very important organization that has benefited from Mel’s generosity. He has contributed to many of their programs, including life skills development and residential programs, as well as their ongoing campaign to build a new Center for Critical Needs and Aging at the Neff Lake campus.
“Mel has been a friend of the Arc Nature Coast for several years now. Philanthropy was natural for Mel, a simple reflection of his spirit and character,” Mark Barry, CEO of the Arc commented.
The Boys and Girls Club of Hernando County, Inc. was another recipient of Greene’s generosity. In 2018 one of the buses they use for transporting children to and from schools and for field trips was damaged. Greene donated money to help get it fixed.
“Mel always admired Boys & Girls Clubs of Hernando County’s mission and the commitment of our staff,” said Brian McNamee, Director of Operations. “He will be missed.”
When someone like Mel Greene passes away, dozens of people come forward with tributes and accolades. The most lasting tribute, and one that Mel would whole-heartedly endorse, would be to honor his name by helping these or other organizations like them.
Below is information about the organizations mentioned in this article. Anyone of them would be grateful for whatever help you can give, whether it be money or volunteering your services to help them with their causes.
People Helping People – (352) 686-4466; website: www. phphernando.org
Veterans HEAT Factory – (352) 796-4323; website: www.veteransheatfactory.com
The Arc Nature Coast – (352) 544-2322, Ext. 109; website: www.thearc-naturecoast.org
Boys and Girls Club of Hernando County – 352-666-0068; website: www.bgchernando.org
Rotary Club of Spring Hill- [email protected]; on Facebook: Rotary Club of Spring Hill Florida
Anyone wishing to send personal condolences to Mel’s family can mail a card to the following address:
Family of Mel Greene
7060 Sparkling Creek Court
Spring Hill, FL 34606