By Krystal Fowler Lifestyle Editor
The Daily Iowegian
---- — Centerville lost a tireless advocate on Friday evening, when Robert “Bob” Greene passed away at the age of 85.
Greene was born in Centerville, on the land where the Golden Age was later built, and graduated from Centerville High School in 1945. He moved away and lived many different places, eventually spending more than 30 years living and working in Sedalia, Mo., but in 1998 he and his wife, Fonda, returned to Centerville.
“There’s something about Centerville that brought them all back,” said Greene’s nephew Glenn Rodgers. “My mother died in the Golden Age facing a tree that was planted when she was a little girl. Bob died there too. They started and ended in exactly the same spot. It’s something about Centerville that the family loved so much.”
Anyone who knew Greene knew how much he cared about Centerville and how many volunteer hours he gave to projects big and small in an effort to improve the area. After his return to Centerville, Greene became involved in the community in a big way. He served for eight years on the Centerville City Council and as recently as 2012 he helped found the BOB group, Betterment or Bust, which seeks to help fundraise and complete community projects around town. Mike Thomas, with the BOB group, said Greene was the person who brought the group together.
“He called some people, me and Nancy Bennett and I think it was George Johnson and Bob we were the first group to meet,” said Thomas. “What can we do to improve Centerville, make it look better he said. He also wanted the people in Centerville to feel better about themselves and Centerville.”
Since that first meeting BOB has worked throughout the city on several projects including working to improve the VFW hall. Improving the hall is one of the group’s ongoing projects.
Greene served in the United States Army during the Korean War from 1952 when he and his brother, Ladd, left for basic training, until Feb. 10, 1960, when Greene was honorably discharged.
“Bob was very patriotic,” said Thomas “He wanted to help all veterans.”
Throughout his life Greene wanted to be involved and knew how to get things done. He was always willing to reach out to others to try to get things moving in the community.
“Some people saw Bob as kind of polarizing,” said Thomas.”But you know, even though Bob disagreed with you, he held no ill will against anyone. He could disagree with you and you could still be friends. That was one of the traits about him that I really liked is that you could disagree…and still be friends.”
Throughout his work with the BOB group and in every other groups he joined, Greene could be counted on to get things done.
“He not only liked to talk, he liked to listen,” said Daily Iowegian publisher Becky Maxwell. “He would look in all directions and would approach people that he felt should be in leadership positions to see what they thought about things.”
“Bob was pretty much I guess you might say, the backbone of the [BOB] group,” said Thomas. “He seemed to know how to always get things done. He knew everybody and he was able to get people to contribute. If we had tickets to sell, Bob sold tickets like mad. Bob was one of those, you didn’t have to wonder where you stood with him. He was very straightforward with everybody, just a do anything for you kind of guy. He was a very unique guy. It’s just difficult to put into words.”
Thomas shared one story about Greene that many people who spoke to him would have known was a passion project for the man.
“Well you know, there’s one thing that Bob thought was important and he kept bringing up and it’s kind of a crazy thing,” said Thomas. “They killed an elephant down in Dean Bottoms, a circus elephant. And Bob always wanted us to try and figure out how to make an elephant and display that elephant somewhere in Centerville to tell the story about the elephant on Dean Bottoms. Now he knew where the elephant was buried, and he always wanted that elephant. That’s always struck us as a little funny about Bob. I think the BOB group is sending flowers and I think there will be an elephant included.”
Greene’s family also knew him as a unique individual who deeply cared about Centerville and its citizens.
“I didn’t get to come up that often cause it’s quite a distance,” said Rodgers. “Whenever we would come up he was always involved in something. He always had these ideas. It was always something to help Centerville. There’s something really special about this town and he loved it.”
No matter how busy he was though, he also enjoyed keeping family traditions alive.
“We just got done making two batches of peanut brittle which is something that his dad, our grandpa Wylo Greene, made and everybody just loved it and that’s something, a tradition, that Uncle Bob continued,” said Greene’s niece Denise Howe. “Every Christmas he would make peanut brittle and the last four or five years I’ve been fortunate enough to make it with him because I’m here local. Glenn’s from Ohio and so now that Glenn is here, he and I just made two batches of peanut brittle in memory of Uncle Bob and we’re going to take it to the VFW tomorrow.”
“Things never meant much to him, but people did,” said Rodgers. “And relationships and he loved this town and he wanted to see it grow...wanted to see new industry, new jobs and he just wanted to bring it up as far as it could possibly go. He loved this area.”
“He just wanted things to be better,” said Thomas.