Makah elder, fluent native speaker and World War II veteran, dies at 92

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

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NEAH BAY -- Robert "Bob" Greene Sr., the eldest Makah man and the tribe's second-to-last World War II veteran, died of natural causes on Monday.

He was 92.

Services are scheduled for 1 p.m. Monday at the Neah Bay gym, where Greene was known for ringing a cowbell during Red Devil basketball games. A traditional dinner will follow the service at the Neah Bay community hall.

"He was a great storyteller," said Trudy Ward, Greene's daughter.

Ward describe her father as a knowledgeable historian who loved his family and Neah Bay sports.

"He was the one in our tribe who was the most fluent in speaking our native language," said Janine Bowechop, executive director of the Makah Cultural and Resource Center.

Born to Walter and Florence Tucker-Greene on April 16, 1918 in Neah Bay, Greene took an early interest in athletics.

He became a boxing champion at Chemawa Indian Boarding School near Salem, Ore., where he studied.

After his schooling, Greene enlisted in the Army and fought in the Pacific theater of World War II.

For the past 52 years, Greene has honored his fellow Makah veterans in the Makah Days Parade.

He proudly displayed military flags in the back of his truck, and a plaque that lists the names of other Makah who have served in the armed forces, Ward said.

"There must be more than 40 to 50 names on there," Ward said. "It's so cool."

With Greene's passing, John Ides has becomes the tribe's last surviving veteran of World War II.

Mary Greene, at 93, is the eldest member of the Makah.

Greene was a logger by trade who loved to fish in his spare time.

A photo taken of Greene in 1955 shows the "tree topper" standing at the top of a 166-foot spruce, Ward said.

"He had a personality that no one else had," she said.

As his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren moved through the school system, Greene became an avid follower of the Red Devils.

"He followed them all," Ward said.

In 1979, Greene found a large cow bell, circa 1923, in the classified ads.

He rang that bell when the Red Devils scored a touchdown or when one of his grandkids made a nifty basket during a game in the school gym.

Ward said her father was "disappointed" when the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association banned the cow bell from state tournaments a few years ago.

"He was really sad when they wouldn't let him take it to the state playoffs," Ward said.

The cow bell was donated to the school and displayed in the Red Devils' trophy case.

"He was quite the jokester," Ward said. "And he loved his family."

Greene is survived by his daughters, Janice La Chester, Elaine Richardson, Pam Greene and Ward; sons Bob Greene Jr., Keith Greene, Craig Greene Sr. and Kevin Greene; brother, Elmer Greene; numerous grandchildren and numerous great grandchildren.

"He loved his grandchildren to death," Ward said.

"He was so proud of them, and ready to give advice. He could discipline on demand."

Greene was preceded in death by his wife, Hazel Butler-Greene, and daughters Sandra Greene-Gyori and Colleen Greene.

One of his grandchildren, Marla Tolliver, said Greene was a "huge recycler" of aluminum cans in Neah Bay.

Tolliver attended a town meeting on Thursday, during which time community members shared their memories of Greene.

"The word they used was blunt," Tolliver said. "He told them like it was."

Tolliver said her grandfather loved to drive his trucks around the North Olympic Peninsula.

"He was very generous at heart," Tolliver said.

"He would help anybody."


Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at

Reporter Paige Dickerson contributed to this report.

Last modified: June 27. 2010 1:07AM
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