By Bryan Jones
Edward Greene, “Eddie” to thousands, made his last exit in Manteo, North Carolina, on November 29, 2021, at 96. He passed peacefully and was surrounded by people who loved him, Helen Luciano, Gale Friedel, and Richard Lacerre.
He was always going to exit surrounded by love.
Eddie was born in New Rochelle, New York, May 18,1925. His parents, George and Ruth Greene, along with his grandmother, raised him and his brothers, Wick and Teddy, in a home over his parents’ business, The Greene Gallery. He was surrounded by love from the get-go.
Edward grew up during the Great Depression, and after graduating from New Rochelle High School, entered into the Navy in World War II, training as a medical corpsman on a landing craft for the invasion of Japan. While he was at sea, the war ended. He went west, ending up at UC Berkeley, intending to become a doctor. But then he went to see the San Francisco Ballet. It was transformative. “I decided I didn’t want to be a doctor, I wanted to be a dancer.” He joined the San Francisco School of Ballet within weeks.
He started training the week he turned 21. The odds were stacked against him due to his age, and also his elfin stature; it was unlikely he could have a career as a dancer. But of course, he did.
He drove across America to New York City where, in 1953, he was spotted by a choreographer named John Lehman, who invited him to come down to Manteo, North Carolina to dance in Paul Green’s The Lost Colony.
You would expect culture shock, both on his part and on the town of Manteo’s. But it was mutual love at first sight.
In 1955, he decided to stay in New York, and very quickly, he was busy dancing professionally. For a year and a half he did the Broadway Tour of Damn Yankees as dancer, stage manager, and dance captain. For nearly twenty years he was a successful dancer.
But once you fall in love with the Outer Banks, you’re stuck. Between gigs, he’d visit as often as possible.
During the hiatuses between shows, he decorated showrooms for Christmas merchandise distributors, where buyers came to see and buy their holiday stock. He had a vision; he would bring sparkle to Manteo with a Christmas Shop and Art Gallery.
For his first business loan, he went to Ray White, a newly minted loan officer. He went without any paperwork. Ray believed in him, and convinced a sharp-eyed loan committee to believe, too. A half century friendship was born, and Eddie never looked back.
Edward met Richard Lacerre, artist, designer, and antique collector in New Jersey, who came down to Manteo with him; he became his business partner and five decade companion. Over the years, they made the Christmas Shop itself a work of art, eventually becoming a rambling showplace of fine antiques, enticing displays, entrancing sounds and smells, and – yes – sparkle.
Somehow, he found time to be President of the Chamber of Commerce; to be Manteo town commissioner during the massive revitalization project of downtown Manteo, to be on the board of The Lost Colony, to be vice-president of Save Jockey’s Ridge.
Manteo needed a bookstore, he started it, along with multiple other businesses, including The Weeping Radish, in the process getting a law passed allowing micro-breweries in North Carolina. (You’re welcome.)
He established the New World Arts Festival, and with his friends David Stick, Andy Griffith, George Crocker and Ray White, he co-founded the Outer Banks Community Foundation, which has helped thousands of people in Dare County.
That is not half of his civic leadership. Governor Jim Hunt awarded him the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, North Carolina’s highest honor.
He is survived by his nephew Ron Greene (Mary), his nieces Debbie Greene, Lynn Swanson (Carl), and Lynn Greene Fortin, his grandnieces Andrea, Karen, Sharon, Nicole, Tracy, Taylor and Brooke, by grandnephews James, Matthew and Christopher, by his countless friends, hundreds of employees, three generations of customers, and thousands whose lives he touched in a positive way.
Every year, during the first cast and crew meeting of The Lost Colony, Eddie would take time to speak to the company, and tell them that they would remember that summer for the rest of their lives. He was right. Eddie had remembered his first summer here, and the love, energy and vision it inspired made Dare County a better place. Manteo and Dare County loved him back, which is why he was always going to exit, downstage center, surrounded by love.
A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date, which will be announced. In lieu of flowers, do something good for your community.
Twiford Funeral Homes, Outer Banks is assisting the family with arrangements. Condolences and memories may be shared at www.TwifordFH.com.
- “Christmas Every Day – The Wonderful Life of Eddie Greene” now available on Youtube
- History of the Outer Banks Community Foundation
- New World Festival of the Arts
- Jockey’s Ridge: Saving the giant (courtesy Coastal Review)
- Edward Greene retirement ribbon cutting (courtesy Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce)
- Edward Greene 2015 Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year (courtesy North Beach Sun)