Arnie Green was with us, all the way, with every step. And we were with him. He left our world on October 4, 2011. We last mentioned Arnie in conjunction with the Safe House CD ... but he never stopped his work until the last heartbeat.
A Tribute to Arnie Green
By Myron Schreck
Originally published on The Zero, October 12, 2011
Arnie Green was one of my oldest and closest friends. We attended a Traditional Orthodox Jewish grammar school in Chicago and, later, the Chicago Jewish Academy. We both played on the high school basketball team (although he was first string and I mostly sat on the bench). We both got in trouble for violating school rules, and later we got back at school officials with a scandalous senior play. He was a charismatic rebel at an early age. He was always on the cutting edge; one of the first in our group to play folk songs on guitar and one of the first to develop political consciousness and a concern for social justice. He was a leader back then—a center of attention, a Jewish "James Dean"—and I was one of his admiring followers.
We graduated high school in 1966 and two years later shared an apartment while he attended the University of Illinois Chicago Circle Campus, and I attended Northwestern University. It was the summer of 1968: the Democratic Convention, Civil Rights marches, and anti-war protests. We became even closer friends, often encouraging each other to expand our horizons, challenge authority, learn new skills, make new friends, and travel. We ended up in Berkeley, California. We married people we had met in college, but all of us shared a house. It was the early 1970s and many of us in Berkeley were interested in pursuing a simpler, collective lifestyle, returning to the land, and seeking inner peace. Arnie had a natural Buddha-like wisdom, accepting the world as it is, but seeking to improve it when he could.
By the late 1970s, we had moved on to other pursuits. Arnie and I were divorced from our first wives. Arnie moved to Gold Hill, Oregon, where he purchased land with our friend Steven Plotnick. I graduated law school, moved to Portland, Oregon, and became the third partner in our "back to the land" venture. But things change. Eventually, I began teaching law school in Idaho. The "back to the land" venture did not continue. And Arnie committed his considerable energies to helping children and youth. He started Star Gulch Ranch, a youth residential treatment center, and later created Community Works.
Through the 1980s and 1990s, Arnie and I remained close and visited each other. We continued to share interests in politics, law, and pursuing social justice. But, where I was an educator, he was the activist! And although I taught "Children in the Legal System" and did some work on behalf of children, what I did was nothing compared to what Arnie pursued and the results he obtained.
In addition to sharing professional interests, Arnie and I also played lots of music together. Sometimes I think that half our time together was spent playing guitars and singing. He always had an attractive voice. And many friends will remember how his alluring, emotional persona was reflected in his guitar playing.
Of all our friends, Arnie was one of the most "goal-oriented"—or, you could say, "competitive." Perhaps it was his desire for fame. And of course, he did achieve professional honor and recognition. But his goal was not fame or fortune. His goal was to help others, which is why he chose the profession of social work. His desire for personal success or recognition was always secondary to his desire to redress unfairness.
I recall a phone conversation after he had sent me one of his newspaper opinion pieces in which he advocated for more Oregon state resources for youth intervention. What I heard in his voice was the same enthusiasm that I recalled hearing from him in high school and college. I heard both his pride in writing a compelling article and his passion for helping children who were damaged, disenfranchised, and vulnerable.
Arnie was one of the bravest men I knew and one of the most successful in his field. His life was a shining example of Rabbi Hillel's proverb: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me; and if I am only for myself, then what am I; and if not now, then when?" Arnie acted when things needed to get done. He gave to others selflessly and wholeheartedly. He protected the weak and challenged the oppressors.
Just as he was popular and charismatic in high school, Arnie cultivated many close and devoted friends in Oregon. This despite the fact that he also had a side to his personality that could piss people off. But the multiple facets of his personality were also assets. Because he was persistent, articulate, and persuasive, he was able to accomplish a lot. And because he rarely pulled punches, his honesty was endearing and it engendered trust. Sometimes he would get discouraged and moody. Social work can do that. But Arnie sought love and he gave love. And I still recall his tremendous joy when he informed me that he had found and married the love of his life, Lynn, to whom he remained married for over twelve years.
Looking back at the years that I've known him, I can attest that Arnie Green fulfilled his potential. He was just as extraordinary a man as he was an extraordinary youth. He lived his dream. He fought the good fights. He tilted at windmills. He pursued justice. He helped others. He changed lives. And he improved the world.
He taught me a lot, and I will miss him terribly.
Myron Schreck is a retired Professor of Law at the University of Idaho College of Law. He continues to teach on an Adjunct basis. He holds a B.S. of Speech from Northwestern University, a Masters from San Francisco State University, and a law degree from the University of Illinois College of Law. After law school, he clerked for Justice Edward Howell of the Oregon Supreme Court, and then practiced with the law firm of Black, Tremaine, Higgins, Lankton & Krieger in Portland, Oregon.