Leo Greene dies
Veteran journalist succumbs to ALS at age 62
By Jeff Keating, Staff Writer
Article Launched: 02/09/2022 11:23:37 PM PST
Leo Greene 1945-2008
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin Reporter Leo Greene died late Friday night after battling ALS.
Leo Greene was someone who looked ahead.
As a newspaper reporter, TV producer, college instructor and, finally, the victim of an incurable disease, he always wondered what came next, how something could be done better, what new things others might find useful.
"His mind was always going. He was always planning stuff," said his sister, Martha DeBolt of Tucson, Ariz., who spent Friday with her brother in Claremont, shopping for bedroom decor and taking in the film "The Savages" at the Laemmle Theatres in The Village.
That drive was no more apparent than after Greene, an Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reporter, videographer and columnist since 1998, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) - Lou Gehrig's disease - in August 2006.
In the weeks and months that followed his ALS diagnosis, he chronicled his journey through the disease in monthly columns in the Daily Bulletin and in "Leo's Story," a section of www.dailybulletin.com that includes columns, photos and videos.
The journey came to an end sometime overnight Friday, after Leo got home from the movies. His friend, roommate and caregiver, Ann Madden, found him sitting up in his bed early Saturday, eyes closed, glasses on, a book in his lap.
He had died sometime during the night.
"He looked just like someone who'd fallen asleep reading, but he wasn't asleep," Madden said Saturday.
Leo Greene was 62.
In the newspaper and on his Web site, Leo's candid assessments of the toll the disease was taking on his body were countered in his words and pictures by what he described as a growing spiritual awareness, increased concern for the needs of those around him - especially family - and a pressing desire to pass on his skills and life lessons to the generations to follow.
"Having a notion of when the end might come allows time to prepare, to adjust priorities," Leo wrote in a column published one year ago today.
"Spiritual knowledge can be found in an awareness of the life around us."
Joyce Greene of Montclair, who was married to Leo from 1980 to 2003, said that awareness manifested in closer relationships between Leo and his four sons, including the two she and Leo had together: Sam, 20, a Pitzer College student, and David, 16, a junior at Claremont High School.
In fact, Joyce Greene said, the book Leo was reading when he died -
"Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic," by Chalmers Johnson - was given to him as a gift from Sam the week prior.
Paul Greene, of San Jose, said his brother's true character was best revealed in how he dealt with ALS, including making plans without an end in sight.
"He still had a lot of energy. He was always talking about how he had too much to do," Paul Greene said Saturday. "Despite the infirmity, it was remarkable what he was doing."
For nearly a year after his diagnosis, Leo continued to walk and drive as normally as possible, despite a weakening of his leg and arm muscles caused by ALS. Finally, last summer, he began using a wheelchair regularly; at the time of his death, he was spending most of his time in it, frequently wore a neck brace to keep his head upright, and required a feeding tube at meal times.
Nevertheless, he continued to produce and even narrate his ALS videos - despite the slurred speech that comes with the disease's progress - and trained several newspaper staff members in videography and video production up until his death.
Though ALS brought Leo arguably more public recognition than anything else in his life - his ordeal was profiled on KCET's "Life and Times" in 2007, and his Web site and blog were linked all over the Internet - it hardly defined him, friends and family said Saturday.
A journalist's journalist, he spent much of his career as a TV reporter and producer crusading for the underdog, picking up two Emmys for his work at KCET public television in Los Angeles and sharing a Peabody Award for investigative reporting at KARK-TV in Little Rock, Ark.
He was executive news producer at KING-TV in Seattle for four years in the late 1980s, was news director at Fox TV in Los Angeles, and worked as a freelance producer and videographer throughout Southern California, notably with former KCBS investigative reporter Linda Breakstone.
He also taught broadcast journalism at Chapman University in Orange, worked on the syndicated investigative journalism series "The Crusaders," and even had a presidential connection: He once was a candidate to be former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton's chief of staff.
Leo was born in Los Angeles, at Queen of Angels Hospital, on Dec. 24, 1945.
(Asked once if he felt deprived of gifts and attention because his birthday was so close to Christmas, he said, "Heck, no.
I figured all of it was for me.")
He grew up in Pomona and La Verne, attended Bosco Tech, and graduated from Bonita High School. He earned a bachelor's degree from Cal State Fullerton and a master's in drama from Stanford University.
"He wanted to be a folk singer," Paul Greene said with some amusement Saturday. "In his late teens, he sang at the Ice House in Pasadena. And he did `Godspell' at South Coast Repertory. He was Jesus. My daughter went to see it and got upset because, you know, Jesus dies at the end."
Leo's personal life was not free of its own drama. He battled alcoholism and drug dependency - episodes of his life about which he spoke freely - and had been in recovery since 2000.
Those experiences, coupled with his 18-month fight against ALS, made Leo "a very giving guy, very conscious of the people around him," said Vince DeRosa of San Dimas, a longtime friend who owns Picasso's Cafe in Irwindale.
"I'm most touched at how he shared his illness with the world, helped bring it to the forefront," DeRose said. "He was a gifted and articulate person, and inspiring in many ways."
Mediha DiMartino, a Daily Bulletin photographer mentored by Greene as she developed her videography skills, said Leo "taught me everything I know about video. He always had constructive criticism and good advice.
"And he never wailed about it (ALS). He'd tell you what was going on, but he'd also tell you what he was doing about it.
"He was never going to give up. His spirit was so much stronger than his body was."
Leo is survived by his sons, Sam and David Greene of Claremont, Julian Scaff of The Netherlands and Nathan Hammonds of Chicago; sisters Mary Shelton of Loma Linda and Martha DeBolt of Tucson, Ariz., and brothers Paul of San Jose, Abner of Palo Alto, and Patrick and Phillip of California; his ex-wife, Joyce Greene of Montclair; his friend and roommate, Ann Madden of Claremont; and countless friends.
Memorial services are pending. Arrangements are under the direction of Todd Memorial Chapel of Pomona.