Banker, soldier, clergyman, politician, husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend. Canon Robert Greene of Calgary wore all these hats over the course of his lifetime, all with the same degree of fervor, all with the same degree of devotion.
Father Robert Greene, Anglican cleric, made the return journey to embrace his God and his Heavenly reward Oct. 16. He was 94.
I first met Father Greene or “Bob” as many affectionately knew him at Eindhoven Airport in the Netherlands May 2nd, 2015. He and 58 other veterans, along with their caregivers, were part
of a Canadian government delegation, a pilgrimage of sorts, commemorating the 70th anniversary of that country’s liberation from Nazi occupation.
While others were busily milling about the airport lounge, talking and having morning refreshments courtesy of their Dutch hosts, Father Greene was silently praying, quietly glancing at his Breviary, no doubt giving thanks.
This was not his first journey of remembrance. A member of the 5th Armoured Division, Lord Strathcona’s Horse, he served as part of a tank crew during World War II, escaping death on more than one instance, travelling to Italy on four previous occasions to pay respects to fallen comrades.
On this, his final trip to the Netherlands, Father Greene would lead a commemorative prayer service at Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, the final resting site of 2,338 Canadian service personnel. The proceedings were covered live by Dutch television and picked up by CTV News Channel back in Canada.
His war experiences left an indelible mark. He told the Calgary Herald, “A lot of good men, much better than I ever was, were killed,” adding, “Go back and work in the bank after I’d seen some of my closest friends killed? He wondered about, “the real purpose of my life.”
That purpose led the Toronto native to his eventual ordination as a priest in 1954 after obtaining his Bachelor of Arts and Licentiate in Theology from Trinity College and subsequently his Bachelor of Sacred Theology. He would serve in six centres, including Toronto, continuing his work in four Western Canada communities, in addition to his position as Padre at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 264, Calgary after “retiring” in 1996.
His defense of the downtrodden led to a seat on Calgary city council for a single term in the late 1960s that resulted in that city’s first public housing program.
His wartime experiences would carry over into the pro-life struggle. In a 2014 interview with The Interim, Reverend Greene said his involvement with Calgary and Winnipeg pro-life activities stemmed from, “a position that war was bad, capital punishment, euthanasia, abortion the whole list.” He was one of the founding members of ‘Pregnant in Distress’ in Winnipeg.
During his 16 year position at St. Bartholomew’s church in Regent Park, Toronto, Father Greene became close friends with the late Father Ted Colleton who he referred to as, “one of my heroes.” When Father Colleton was arrested for saying the Rosary at the Morgentaler abortuary, Reverend Greene suggested the arresting officer devote more attention to crack cocaine sales to pre-teens near his rectory. The unexpected verbal fusillade resulted in the constable driving into a pole. His persistence before higher-ups resulted in Father Colleton’s eventual release.
That 2014 Interim interview saw Reverend Greene opine about the nation’s loss of democratic rights. “I think all the things we fought for are going down the drain right now, all these things that all of my buddies gave their lives for have just gone by the boards.” He raised that very issue before those aging Canadian veterans, their caregivers, visiting Canadian and Dutch politicians, and an international audience that blustery May 3, 2015 day at Groesbeek. He stated he would be, “unfaithful to my Canadian friends, especially the Strathconas who are buried out here in this cemetery” if he did not make a few comments. Those comments were critical of the February 2015 Supreme Court of Canada decision on doctor-assisted suicide. Father Greene said the, “Canadian country didn’t want that, the House of Commons on two occasions had opposed that,” adding it was in contradiction to what the Canadian people wanted. He was also critical of an April 2015 SCOC ruling against the municipal council in Saguenay, Quebec to open their meetings with prayer. He concluded by saying, “We think we’ve got trouble in the Senate, the Supreme Court is much more dangerous.”
A Requiem High Mass was held at St. Barnabas Anglican Church, Calgary on Oct. 21. He is survived by Marion, his wife of 65 years, four children, six grandchildren, three step-grandchildren and three great-grandsons.