More detail on this person: Robert Greeno 87, helicopter pilot, of Broomfield, CO passed away
Sat., 8-8-15. He is survived by his wife Tinnie of 61 years, 4 adult children.
Published in DenverPost.com on Aug. 16, 2015 Robert Greeno: Longtime Broomfield resident Greeno recalled as a hero at the chopper's controls Memorial service A celebration of life for Robert Greeno is set for 10 a.m. Sunday at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9565, 11700 Wadsworth Blvd. Greeno is survived by his wife Tinnie Greeno, children Janet Sund, Tom Greeno, Jeanie Brophy and James Greeno, seven grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. A Sunday memorial is set for longtime Broomfield resident Robert Greeno, remembered for his love for aviation and several heroic rescues, and a drive to implement helicopters in agencies around the state. Greeno, 86, died Aug. 8. He had called Broomfield home since 1961. Greeno, an Army veteran, developed a passion for planes as a child, and took his first solo trip out of Denver's former Stapleton Airport in a Piper J-3 Cub aircraft when he was 16. Greeno paid $8 an hour to receive flying lessons, though he was only making 35 cents an hour at odd jobs in Denver, but it was enough - he got his private and commercial pilot's licenses in 1944 and 1945 and crop dusted fields, ferried planes for several aircraft sales companies and performed in air shows. Daughter Janet Sund said Greeno was grounded by a heart attack at 57, otherwise he would have stayed in the skies. Greeno joined the Army and served during the Korean War in the 1950s, performing medical evacuations for soldiers on the front lines. When he returned to civilian life, he flew for several aviation companies, including his own business Rocky Mountain Helicopters, and contracting with the Colorado Park Service and U.S. Geological Service. Greeno was later hired by Public Service Company of Colorado, when he used the company chopper to make a daring rescue in January 1967 that drew national and international attention. A chartered twin-engine Cessna carrying five people had gone down on Mount Sherman near Leadville, but hazardous blizzard conditions forced authorities to halt the search. Sund said her father couldn't stand by and let the passengers die, and while reports said Greeno and a fellow employee had simply flown by the area at the right time, his daughter recalled it differently. "I was 6 and we were in the kitchen," Sund said. "My dad told my mom, 'I know I can get them.' He was always looking out for other people," Sund said, remembering she'd asked her mother if he was going to die. "My mom said, 'no, he's not going to die up there, he'll be home for dinner.'" And Greeno was - but not before he was swarmed by media crews at Stapleton Airport wanting to know the details of the rescue. Greeno never let on that he initiated his own search or deliberately bypassed asking to use the company helicopter for the mission, Sund said. She recalled her older brother, Tom, was in class at Emerald Elementary the day of the rescue, and after returning to school from his lunch break at home, spread the news to his classmates. Arizona retiree Chuck Budde was one of five rescued that day, 21 years old at the time. He will pay his respects Sunday to the pilot who saved his life decades ago. Budde recalled the day the Cessna crashed into the peak that was mostly hidden with cloud cover, hitting a downdraft and crashing. "We couldn't have been any higher than we were on that mountain," he said. The group of five spent the night on the mountain, worried they might not make it off the peak alive - until Greeno made his appearance the next morning with his chopper. Greeno took two separate trips to get the group off the mountain, though they had to coax Budde into the helicopter, sine he was terrified to get in another aircraft after the crash. Greeno's eyes on the skies, Budde kept asking when and how the pilot would know if it was safe to take off. "Next thing I knew we were airborne and (Greeno) said, 'it's time.' He shot down and I must have been a loose cannon, because I kept saying, 'the blades are going to hit the side of the mountain,' and he said, 'no they aren't.' And sure enough we were fine," Budde said. That was the only time Budde ever saw Greeno, but he occasionally called the pilot, especially around the January anniversary of the crash. "I was happy I had been able to talk to him this year and thank him again," he said. A year later, Greeno helped Denver police chase an armed robbery suspect for 250 miles. As police officers' vehicles ran out of gas, Greeno tracked the fleeing car in his Hiller SL-4 chopper until he, too, nearly ran out of fuel. Greeno made a split decision and landed in the middle of the highway in front of the suspect's car, stopping him in his tracks and allowing police to capture him, Sund said. Those weren't the first of Greeno's daring rescues - in the 1960s he performed rescue missions and firefighting missions for handfuls of agencies who knew of his precision flying. "Due to the dramatic rescues ... he was instrumental in getting the Denver Police and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office set up with getting their own helicopters and worked with them on a program that would make the aircraft work financially," Sund said, adding that Greeno was instrumental in getting air ambulance service established in Colorado, having encouraged the right people to move the process along. Greeno received numerous commendations during his life, including a commendation from the Metropolitan Law Enforcement Association and the Federal Aviation Adminstration's Gold Medal Award for the Mount Sherman rescue. Greeno also participated in the international Third World Helicopter Championships in Russia in 1978, in which his U.S. civilian team placed second, and his flight suit hangs in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. While his feats were remarkable, Sund said, Greeno's family will honor him for the mark he left on their lives as a father, grandfather and husband. "He's done some heroic things ... but he was this unassuming guy, he was so quiet and so charming; he was such a gentleman," Sund said. "He'd get done with all these heroic deeds and he'd say, 'OK, I have to get to my job.'" Photographs of Greeno's experience in Korea are part of a permanent display at the Broomfield Veterans Memorial Museum, as well as a temporarily running video featuring nearly 30 slides of Greeno's life. An online video of an interview with Greeno can be accessed via a QR code at the museum. "He was a great guy, there's no question about it. He was an inspiration to all of us," said museum board member Ed Miccio, adding that Greeno was a frequent visitor. "It was not what he could do for us, but we could do for him."
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