In his 61 years, Michael Stuart Greene proved that the sum of a life is so much greater than one. He leaves a legacy of communities aided by his work as a fire chief and visionary creator of emergency medical services systems, people aided by his work as a paramedic, his family, and a universe of lifelong friends. In the words of his son, he was “the unofficial mayor of wherever he lived.”
His greatest joys were his wife Barbara, his sons Collin and Gavin, and his new daughter-in-law, Collin’s wife Caity, followed closely by his love for his life’s work in fire and emergency management, his passion for selling, buying and trading cars, and his devotion to root beer.
He is mourned as a friend, a mentor, a teacher, a leader, a comedian, a chief, a well-loved boss, an EMS pioneer, as one of the most caring and compassionate people around, as an inspiring, funny and generous friend, as someone who always knew how to make everyone smile and ease any tension, as someone who made us laugh and think, and as a good man and a huge part of the communities in which he lived. A longtime friend said that he “made a difference to every community he lived in, and saved countless lives in his many years as a firefighter, paramedic and fire chief. It is so very hard to imagine a world without his friendship, his corny sense of humor, his compassion, and his common sense.”
Michael began life as the adored youngest child of three. From babyhood, he was loving, joyful, energetic, dedicated and so sweetly stubborn. His mother described him as an “adorable implacable.”
Michael graduated from Carson High School in 1972, and after attending college in San Diego, became one of the first paramedics in northern Nevada. In 1981, he was the sole survivor of an air ambulance crash, and crawled miles through a snowstorm with a broken back and ribs to get help. He moved to Olympia, Wash. in 1983 and became a paramedic with the Olympia Fire Department. Early on, he was paired with a paramedic named Barbara — and that partnership become lifelong. Michael and Barbara were married on Sept. 15, 1984, and sons Collin and Gavin soon followed. From 1984-1994, Michael owned an EMS consulting and training company. He worked as a paramedic with the Tumwater Fire Department from 1985 until he left in 1991 to become assistant fire chief and then fire chief in Washington’s Mason County Fire District 2. During his tenure as chief, the department won six state management excellence awards and one national award for management excellence. In 200 7 he became fire chief in Sierra Fire Protection District in Reno, Nevada. In 2011, he retired and he and Barbara settled in Tonasket that November. When the community needed him, he answered the call and came out of retirement to serve as the Tonasket EMS director. He also continued to serve as a consultant and mentor to many.
Michael had a big and loving heart, and he gave so much of it away that in the end, it was exhausted. In the spring of 2014, Michael suffered a serious heart event and underwent extensive surgery. When he emerged from that experience, he made it his mission to connect with friends and family he loved, near and far — and he did. At his son Collin’s wedding in September, he spent the entire weekend beaming with an ear-to-ear grin.
He leaves behind friends and family that are mourning far and wide, a groan-worthy history of punny stories and corny jokes, and a record of thousands of well-researched and energetically negotiated car purchases. Car dealers across the country may be surprised in years to come when Michael’s friends and family members walk into a showroom to buy a car and burst into tears at the prospect of facing their first car purchase without Michael. (And he’d be the first to tell you if you’re starting in the showroom, you’re starting in the wrong place.)
Michael was preceded in death by his father, Bernard F. Greene and leaves behind his mother Muriel Margolin Keehn, wife Barbara, son and daughter-in-law Collin and Caity Greene, son Gavin Greene, sister and brother-in-law Andrea and Scott Rutledge, brother and sister-in-law Jonathan and Marion Greene, sister-in-law and husband Yvonne and George Short-Blakey, two nieces, three nephews, one great-niece, and his beloved dog Tommy.
The family is planning a memorial service in Tonasket, Wash. at Tonasket High School on Saturday, January 23, 2016 at 2 p.m. In the coming months, the family will host a celebration of Michael’s life in Belfair, Wash, and another in his hometown of Carson City, Nevada.
To honor Michael, please install an additional smoke detector for yourself or a neighbor, toast his memory with root beer, and tell your friends and family that you love them. Donations in his memory can be made to Tonasket EMS District (P.O. Box 1356, Tonasket, WA 98855) or Okanogan County Fire District #4 (P.O. Box 79, Tonasket, WA 98855).
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