My father, Carroll Lee Greer, died yesterday morning. Peacefully, resting in his recliner at home in San Mateo, California. He was 97 years old.
He was born in December 1911 (same year as Ronald Reagan), in small logging town of Troutdale in the Appalachian mountains of Virginia (about three hours drive from where I live now).
My dad was like most dad's in the 1950's he earned the income while my mom took care of us kids. He worked as a machinist (and later a engineering technician) at United Air Line's main maintenance base at San Francisco International Airport. When he came home from work, we were suppose to be quiet, and listen respectfully, while he talked about his day during supper. Then every weekday night he watched the news (Walter Cronkite on CBS). Until I was 17 most nights after the news my dad either left home to go to classes at the community college (College of San Mateo) or he retreated to my parents bedroom to his desk to study for his classes.
My dad made sure, by both word and example, that we all understood the importance of getting a college education.He would talk about the things he was learning in his classes. I remember learning from him about the experiments on group conformity by Solomon Asch (some thing that I like to tell my students about today). When I was about eleven, a college algebra class he needed to take was made available on television at some really early hour of the morning, like 5:30 AM or 6:00 AM. I actually got up and watched much of it with him, fascinated, learning about things like square roots before I had completely mastered my multiplication tables (to this day I don't know what 8 x 7 is!).
He was very talented and creative. He won any number of awards and recognition for designing new tools and items for United's planes. He invented the special latches for holding the food trays in place in the galley during take off. He invented the "privacy curtain" on the circular stairwell of the new 747 jumbo jets so that passengers couldn't look up the skirts of stewardesses. At home he created beautiful yet practical handcrafted wood furniture for our home. Tables, chairs, a huge bunk-bed for my brothers, in later years he liked to create craft items, that were sold at the church bazaar.
Most of his creative expression was poured into photography. Everything we did was photographed! There are thousands and thousands of photos of me and my brothers and my mom -- and almost none of him. The few of him were staged with the use of a tripod. He also earned some extra money by doing wedding and event photography. I often got to go with him to weddings and act as his assistant when I was between the ages of 10 and 14.
My father bequeathed me many gifts -- artistic talent, a love of learning (especially mathematics and science), passion for photography. But most especially he bequeathed to me a set of values -- left, liberal, even radical values. He gave me The Communist Manifesto to read when I was about 12. He was a union man and walked the picket line for six weeks when I was 15. He believed in equality for all, and economic equity. His heroes were Muhammad Ali, who he admired for resisting the draft and for getting rid of his "slave name" (as well as for his amazing, beautiful ballet in the boxing ring), and Martin Luther King Jr. I would not be the person I am, the sociologist that I am were it not for the lessons my father taught me. He was a "working class hero."
Photographs are from top to bottom: My father on the front porch less than two months ago (2009) taken by my best friend (and my parents "other daughter") Betti DeMeules Christensen; My father with me and my brother Charlie at our back door in 1958 (photo set up by my dad using a tripod); My father with me, my brother Frank (baby), and my brother Charlie and the apple tree that now dominates the back yard in early 1957 (also a tripod photo he set up); my father writing in his journal in 1987, by me with the new Pentax camera he gave me.