By Joe Boyles
Music has its Kenny G and Madison had our Tommy G. The one and only Tommy Greene passed away two weeks ago from a lengthy illness that he quietly and manfully fought. Unlike many things in his life, Tommy bore his illness quietly. Many of us did not know he was sick.
To say that Tommy was unique would be a classic understatement. I once said that with Tommy, “they broke the mold,” but to be honest, I’m not sure there was a mold to begin with. Everywhere in our fair state that I would travel, people in the know would mention Tommy Greene when I said I was from Madison. The two were inseparable. I would think that if anyone compiles a list of Madison’s most unforgettable characters in our first two centuries, Tommy Greene will be on the list.
Some referred to Tommy as Madison’s Leprechaun. Everything about Greene was … green. His clothes; his signature; his cars; the names of his children; the list goes on. I never checked his underwear, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Many of us have to remember to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day; not Tommy.
Tommy was not an accomplished public speaker, so he used short, funny quips to compensate. His stock answer to the question, “what are you up to Tommy” would be greeted with the response, “about 5 foot 5.” I chuckled every time he pulled that one-liner on me.
Tommy was certainly controversial and he had his fair share of detractors. I was not among them. I found that most of his opponents were people who had known him as a youngster. I only knew Tommy for 15 years.
I respected Tommy, and he returned my respect. I knew it wasn’t wise to get into an argument with someone who buys ink by the barrel. Once when his newspaper was on a crusade that concerned me, I sat down with him over lunch and we both heard each other out. Tommy was firm in his convictions – no surprise there, but we listened to each other. No one got hot under the collar; merely respect and honest dialogue.
I think another reason that Tommy appreciated me was because of my military background. Those of us who have worn the uniform are a band of brothers. Tommy had the utmost respect for servicemen and women.
My association with Greene Publishing goes back nearly ten years. The late Bernard Wilson came to me one day at Rotary and confided that he was no longer comfortable writing the weekly veterans column for the Carrier that he had begun 30 years before. Why he told me this, I’m not sure, but when I asked several weeks later if he would mind if I begin to write in his place, Bernard thought it was a good idea. At his bidding, I went to see Mary Ellen Greene and she encouraged me to begin writing.
I’ve been faithfully writing this column ever since. Of course, it is quite a bit different that Bernard’s column was, but that’s to be expected. Tommy appreciated my small contribution to the Carrier. He would mention it whenever we saw each other. I always thank my readers including Tommy. Without you, there wouldn’t be much point in writing, would there? I also know and appreciate my audience. I realize that many of the things I put into words confirm your thoughts and concerns.
I send my deepest condolences to the Greene Family and all members of Greene Publishing. I would extend that to our entire community. Tommy may have been short in stature, but he was a giant in spirit. Now, he is in the company of angels. God Rest.