James Green, 91

James Green died on June 19, 2024 at the Kaplan House Family Hospice in Danvers, Massachusetts.  He was ninety-one years old.

James Green

The first alternate in the marathon event for two consecutive United States Olympic teams (1960, 1964), having achieved many top-ten finishes in the Boston Marathon, including third place in 1960 in a personal best of 2:23:37, having won silver in the 1959 Pan American games and competed internationally, including in the First International Marathon in Seoul, South Korea, in the Fukuoka Marathon in Japan, and in the 15-kilometer Mar del Plata in Argentina, among other races in the U.S. and abroad, Green was among the very last survivors of a bygone era of long-distance running pursued at an elite level at great personal sacrifice for pure love of the sport, without the least hope for monetary compensation.  During his peak years he competed for the BAA under the formidable regime of his respected coach, the late Jock Semple.  As the decades passed, he never stopped participating in road races, although in later years he began focusing on those under the marathon distance—that is, until the terrorist bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon drove him in an act of personal resistance to resume marathon-racing.  He finished Boston in 2014, 2015, and 2017 (ages 81, 82, and 84, respectively), suffering what later was determined to have been a heart attack crossing the finish line of the 2017 race, the aftermath and treatment for which may well have contributed to his later decline.  He was the coach, mentor, and friend of countless runners, and the inspiration for many others.

James Frederick Green was born on Nov. 27, 1932, at Weymouth Hospital, to Francis Wilfred Green and Ethyl McCashin of Quincy, Massachusetts, into family that ultimately grew to include eight brothers and sisters.  His clam-digging as a youth provided not only memories that were relished in later years, but an introduction to the joy of pushing oneself to one’s physical limits, something for which he never, not even through to his last days, lost the taste.

A man of sincere faith, he was in those early days an altar server at his church.

He attended Compton College in California, then the University of California, Berkeley, from which he received his B.A. in political science and where he was on the boxing and track teams.  He would later go on to earn his M.A. in government from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he met his beloved wife, Michele, and to obtain his Ph.D. in government and international relations from American University in Washington, D.C.

He joined the United States Army in 1953 and learned Russian at the Army Language School in Monterey, California, using his skills to serve as a voice intercept operator of Russian-language transmissions while stationed in Germany in 1956.  (He also represented the Army as a member of its boxing team.)  His study of the Russian language grew into a life-long love for Russian language and culture, especially of nineteenth-century literature and of music by its classical composers.

Green had a varied professional career, including as a professor at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts and at U. Mass., Amherst, and as a public school teacher in Saugus, Beverly, Swampscott, and Marblehead; he continued substitute-teaching well into his eighties.  He also worked as a technical writer, including for Wang Computers in Lowell, Massachusetts, and was for a time the City of Beverly’s Recreation Director.  He was a coach throughout his life, whether volunteering his time or in paid roles.  Perhaps most influential was his work in the late 1970s and early ‘80s coaching the North Shore’s Coastal Track Club.

A skilled classical pianist and lover of literature who recited favorite poems from memory, he lived in a world of the highest ideals, and he eschewed fads, brands, and celebrity culture.  Green wrote and self-published two novels in the early 2000s.

James —“Jim” or “Jimmy” to friends and family—is survived by his devoted wife of 59 years, Michele (neé Wyatt), children Meredith Dutton, Eric Green, and Tara Green, daughter-in-law Ridgely Fisk Green, grandchildren Emerson, Vivian, and A.J., his sisters Patricia Racette, Donna Gounaris, Constance George, and Rosemary Beau, and his brother Donald Green.  He was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Louise Hunnel, and his brother Wilfred (Bill) Green.

Green could claim many notable accomplishments, even beyond those summarized here, but will undoubtedly be remembered most, by those he leaves behind, for his truly exceptional modesty and his willingness to see people as they wanted to see themselves—thereby helping them to embody the selves they had it in them to become.

A funeral Mass will be held at Marblehead’s Our Lady, Star of the Sea Catholic Church on Wednesday, June 26, at 11:00 a.m.  Burial at Waterside Cemetery will take place the following day.  Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at eustisandcornellfuneralhome.com for James’ family.

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