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William E. Green, V

May 01, 1961 - March 03, 2012

In describing the passing of Bill Green, 50, two titles come to mind: The 17th-century poem “Death Be Not Proud,” by John Donne, and “A Lesson In Dying” --- a slight paraphrase of Ernest Gaines’ 1933 novel.

When Bill --- the fifth in a line of William Ernest Greens --- transitioned March 4 at his home in Spokane, WA, he had courageously endured a painful illness and crushing disability without anger, self-pity or complaint.

Bill, who grew up in Palo Alto and had been a world-class sprinter, sometimes ran with the Hoover Boys Club track team coached by East Palo Altan Van Parrish. He learned he had metastatic esophageal cancer in August when an undetected malignant spinal tumor caused sudden paraplegia. The succeeding months saw the unchecked spread of the disease despite aggressive treatment.

He is most remembered, by many, for his extraordinary talent as a runner and put the city’s Cubberley High School on the map in the world of track and field.

By 1978, as a junior, he won the California State championship in 440-yard race and track officianados took notice. The next year, as a senior, he ran 45.51 and set the national high school record having run it faster than any high schooler ever. In addition, he was a fail-safe, come-from-behind anchor in the sprint relays.

Bill was selected for the Pan American Games, though he did not compete. At age 18, after placing in the top three in a Southern California race against veteran college stars, three days later, he found himself on a flight to Europe with a team of Americans sent to compete on the world stage.

He collected trophies all over Europe, but among his proudest recognitions were those earned at home --- his top athlete honor at Cubberley and the Peninsula Male Athlete of the Year Award, presented by the Peninsula Times Tribune in 1979. His records at various meets stood for many years.

In 1980, the ecstasy and agony of his running career were realized when he won the 400 meters in Eugene, OR, at the Olympic Trials which made him an Olympian. But then-President Jimmy Carter, protesting the Soviet war in Afghanistan had already forbade the U.S. team’s participation in the Moscow event.

When news of Bill’s death reached friends, fans and coaches, they flooded social media venues with tributes and photos of his track accomplishments.

Friends and family recalled his love of animals [he leaves his cats, Max and Brooklyn]; his “techno-geek” interest in electronics and computers; his collection of vintage radios; and his status as a licensed ham operator.

Bill spent long hours in the library, loved gardening, music, cooking, hiking, camping, metal- detecting and fishing. Friends praised his sense of humor and his kindness and compassion. While in the Bay Area, he worked for companies including Rod-L Electronics and Hewlett- Packard; and he was a volunteer at a food distribution center in East Palo Alto.

Bill was born in Pittsburgh, PA, May 1, 1961. He was a graduate of Cubberley’s last class before it closed in 1979.

He attended the University of Southern California on a track scholarship, exchanging his black and gold Cubberley Cougar jersey for the Trojans’ cardinal and gold and their “Fight On” mandate. He was a member of USC's record-setting 1600 meter relay team.

Bill is survived by his parents, Palo Altans Loretta Martin Green, a retired journalist, and William E. Green, an attorney and a former sprinter at the University of Pittsburgh. He also leaves his brother Roderic Martin Green (Tammy) of Commerce, MI, who also was a member of the speedy Cubberley Cougars. Bill is survived by his sisters Inelle Lisa Green of San Jose and Nicole Elise Green of Oakland.

He is survived by his girlfriend Karen Elwell, of Spokane, WA, with whom he lived and who lovingly cared for him during his illness. Also mourning his passing are: his friend and former wife Kimberly Murray, of Palo Alto; numerous nieces and nephews; his 97-year-old maternal grandmother Elise Martin, of Columbia, SC; and aunts, uncles and cousins.

A celebration of Bill’s life, led by the Rev. Edward Prothro-Harris of Palo Alto’s University AME Zion church will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 31 at the Unity Palo Alto Church, 3391 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. There will be a reception at the church after the service. The family requests that those attending the service wear everyday colors rather than black.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent in Bill’s memory to the Peninsula Bay Links Scholarship Fund, 1635 Candace Way, Los Altos, CA 94024. Contributions will fund a Bill Green scholarship for local, college-bound senior track and field athletes.

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