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Published: Wednesday, 5/25/2011

Richard J. Greene, 1924-2011: Photojournalist shot U.S., local events for Blade

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Richard J. Greene, a Blade photographer for nearly 30 years who took pictures of the famous, the historic, the scenic, and the everyday, died May 16 in Hillcrest Manor Nursing Home, Wylie, Texas. He was 86.

He had Alzheimer's disease and was in declining health the last two years, his son Pat said.

Mr. Greene and his wife, Jacquelyn, lived for much of their retirement in Hot Springs Village, Ark. Formerly of South Toledo, he retired in 1979. The couple for a time lived in the Dallas area.

His work appeared with the byline "Blade photo by Dick Greene." An important early assignment was to cover the 1960 U.N. General Assembly in New York. He got shots of Fidel Castro, who the year before had taken power in Cuba. One picture showed Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev emerging from a limousine, bodyguards surrounding him.

"He looked directly at my dad's camera," his son said. "It's a very stern kind of look on his face. He always talked about the Khrushchev photo. It was the pivotal moment in his career."

Earlier, he'd taken pictures of the St. Lawrence Seaway as it was being developed, and then he hopped aboard a ship for a trip through the completed seaway. Later, he photographed the 1972 Democratic National Convention.

Closer to home, on weekends especially, he often took his sons along on assignments.

"I remember the Ohio State-Michigan games on the sidelines," his son Tom said. "My fondest memory is being in the clubhouse after the game at Tiger Stadium, with Al Kaline and Rocky Colavito drinking beer and the towel around the waist."

Mr. Greene's favorite assignments were those known as rovers: The photographer was sent out to find something of his choosing that would be suitable for the next day's newspaper.

"The thing that he really enjoyed about the photography at The Blade was he loved the creative aspects and using his imagination," son Pat said. "It was amazing to watch him work. I remember riding in his car with him. He looked forward to those days. He got to do what he wanted to do and created what he wanted. He was gifted at that.

"You give him a kid and a hose," son Pat said, "and you know something was going to happen. He took so much pride in his work."

The award-winning photographer returned from a family trip to eastern Canada in the early 1970s with a portfolio of rolling scenery and farm settings, some of which were featured in Toledo Magazine.

He also took spot news photos -- fires and the like -- and was assigned to society events.

"He did everything, just like we all did," said Don Simmons, a retired Blade photographer. "He was just a good photojournalist. It was his technique."

An event like the Blizzard of '78 was a call to action, not to hunker down.

"It showed me he loved the challenge and adventure of taking photos," son Pat said. "If it needed to be shot, he would capture the moment and get it in the paper the next day."

He was born July 5, 1924, in Toledo. His parents, Sophie and Frank Zielinski, ran a grocery store on Belmont Avenue. He later changed his name to Greene.

He was a graduate of Central Catholic High School. He was turned down for military service. He thought about college, he wrote in a biographical sketch, but was "influenced by the big dollars of the war years" and worked in a factory for three years.

He was hired by the former Toledo Times in May, 1945, but was laid off in January, 1949, in an economy move. He worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Blade's sister newspaper, for nearly two years. Afterward, he moved to California but returned to Toledo in 1951 and was hired by The Blade in 1952.

In Toledo, he was a member of St. Catherine and St. Patrick of Heatherdowns parishes. He was a coach for St. Patrick youth sports and for Toledo's recreation program. In Hot Springs Village, he served as an usher for the Saturday afternoon Mass at Sacred Heart of Jesus Church.

Surviving are his wife, Jacquelyn, whom he married March 25, 1949, sons, Tom, Kim, Mike, and Pat Greene, stepson, Bill Miller, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Memorial services will be private.

Arrangements are by the North Dallas Funeral Home.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.



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