John McRae Greeno

John McRae Greeno

Submitted by his wife

John Greeno was born June 2‚ 1954 to Cammie and Earl Greeno in Redwood City‚ CA where he lived until he was 8. His father’s job moved them to Independence‚ CA where John grew up in the shadow of Mount Whitney. It was here that he developed his love of the outdoors that would eventually lead him to a 25 year career with the U. S. Forest Service.

Greeno‚ as he was best known‚ started working for the U.S. Forest Service in May 1979 on the Inyo National Forest‚ Mt. Whitney Ranger District‚ first in the recreation program and then moving into fire suppression. He worked on the Independence Helitack Crew on Helicopter 525 based out of Independence from 1982 to 1986. When he left‚ he was a lead crewperson. John then moved to the Stanislaus National Forest where he continued to fight fires and would become the Helitack SuperintendentHelitack Superintendent of the Bald Mt Helitack‚ Helicopter 517 on the Mi-Wok Ranger District. Greeno loved to say that he had a job that every little boy dreams of: fighting fires‚ traveling all over the United States‚ and flying in helicopters.

John was well respected in the aviation and firefighting communities. During his 25 years in the Forest Service‚ John received many awards‚ commendations‚ certificates of merit and letters of appreciation. His knowledge‚ skills and love of talking made him well suited for instructing others in workshops and classrooms. He taught numerous classes on a local‚ state‚ and national level. He enjoyed being a mentor for his crews and it gave him a great sense of satisfaction to see them moving up in the ranks. John always encouraged his crews to keep on learning and bettering themselves. Greeno always made the time to keep in touch with them to see how their job was going and to ask how they and their families were doing.

Even though John loved firefighting and flying‚ his love of family came first. John met his wife Lori when he first moved over to the Stanislaus. They became fast friends and their friendship grew into a deep and everlasting love. Lori came into the relationship with a son‚ Marcus. John loved him like he was his own from the first time he met him. John and Lori married in 1993 and were blessed with a beautiful daughter‚ Montana‚ in 1994. As far as John was concerned‚ life couldn’t get much better than having a happy and healthy family surrounding him. Although he would sometimes be gone for weeks at a time on a fire‚ he always made sure to call every night if possible to make sure everything was okay at home and to tell his family that he loved them. When he was home‚ he was never too busy to sit down with Montana to watch Bugs Bunny cartoons or to challenge Marcus to a game of chess. He would bring Lori coffee in bed every morning and rub her feet whenever she wanted. All in all‚ it was a little slice of heaven here on earth.

John wasn’t a complicated man. He wore his heart on his sleeve‚ saw things for what they were‚ and was a great judge of character. Greeno was a Cajun and was very proud of his heritage. He was an excellent cook and spent many winter nights making gumbos and jambalayas. John loved Westerns‚ especially ones with John Wayne; he believed in patriotism and displayed the flag at home every day; he faithfully followed the San Francisco Giants and Forty-Niners‚ even during their worse years; he enjoyed giving and getting nicknames and it seems he had one for almost everyone he knew. They reciprocated with names such as: Pops‚ Johnny Helco‚ Helitack 1A‚ Greenburg‚ Old Man‚ Hobo Bob‚ Sarge‚ Rotorhead‚ and‚ of course‚ Greeno. There were 2 things that John wore almost constantly. One was a ball cap‚ even with a head full of thick‚ black hair and the other was his goofy‚ sweet smile. He had a laugh that could make you laugh and with John around you heard it often. Greeno often talked about what he and his family would do after he retired. He had so many plans; playing a lot more golf‚ taking up his photography again‚ fishing in the High Sierras‚ and traveling with his family to see all the places where he had spent all those days away from them.

John’s life tragically ended on March 10‚ 2005 at the age of 50. He had taken an assignment to go down to the Sabine National Forest in Texas to help with the aerial firing of a prescribed burn. On the 18th day of his 21 day fire assignment‚ the helicopter in which he and 2 other people were flying in crashed in the Big Woods of the Sabine. All 3 perished in the crash‚ but none are forgotten. John was loved by many and his passing has left a huge hole in so many hearts. He is still remembered by friends and family who get together and tell stories about him. Even in death he is still making us laugh.

John is survived by his wife Lori‚ his 16 year old son Marcus‚ his 12 year old daughter Montana‚ sister-in-law and brother-in-law Chris and Ralph Robinson‚ sister and brother-in-law Barbara and Angelo Bongino‚ numerous nieces and nephews‚ great nieces and 1 great-great niece. Coming from 2 large families‚ John had over a hundred cousins‚ many of which he kept in close contact with. All of us miss him each day that we are without him. He is loved by all.

‘Love is one soul shared by two bodies’

Gifford Keeth

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