A Welcome Gift Sails in for WUSF
For much of his seafaring career, Patrick Green traversed the Gulf of Mexico for months at a time, making runs from refineries in Texas and Louisiana to busy ports in Florida on a tanker loaded with 10 million gallons of gasoline. The potentially combustible line of work demanded painstaking attention to detail and could be physically exhausting, yet it also offered Green boundless possibilities for – of all things – literary enrichment.
“I’d get on a ship as a young man and would always have one duffel bag of work clothes and one filled with paperback books,” he recalls. “And by the time I’d get off of that ship, every one of those books would be read.”
The job not only provided a steady and lucrative living, but it was a perfect way for the frequent WUSF radio listener, while home in St. Petersburg between tanker stints, to expand his artistic horizons.
Green spent a decade working on the same oil company vessel until his retirement in 1998. That added up to a lot of completed books – including his No. 1 all-time favorite, James Joyce’s Ulysses, a classic he has read seven times and that once prompted him to get into a bar fight outside the Manhattan’s Seaman’s Club with a Russian sailor over what was the greatest book of all time. “He thought it was War and Peace, and after a few pulled punches we bought each other drinks,” says Green, chuckling at the memory.
Fitting that his choice would parallel Homer’s legendary character in his epic poem, The Odyssey, given the odyssey Green himself charted earlier in his life. After traveling Europe as a self-described hippie, he started out as an Ordinary Seaman on a tanker in Japan with $32 to his name. Soon, he became what was known as a “China Coaster,” working on tankers and container ships in Asian waters and earning his Able Bodied Seaman’s status. That experience eventually led to his Second Mate’s license and job in the Gulf.
The position was challenging and potentially perilous: loading the gasoline into giant tanks, followed by the more difficult job of discharging it at each destination – requiring the rigorous turning of countless heavy valves. “Discharging usually took 20 hours, and I’d work six hours on, six off – and lose about five pounds in the process,” he says. “But in my 40s, I was mostly up on the bridge with my feet propped up, drinking coffee and making sure we didn’t run into anything.”
What Green did run into along the way were the rough-and-tumble bars, colorful port towns and lively nightlife of Costa Rica and South America. Due to the hazardous nature of the work, he was never one to imbibe aboard ships during his typical tanker schedule of one month on and one off. But when he’d return home to his apartment overlooking the Treasure Island waterway, Green made phone calls from his indoor hammock until he found a cheap flight to Costa Rica. “In about three days, I’d be down there having a great time,” he says.
As for the months he was home, Green found a steady companion in the edifying news and eclectic music of WUSF, carrying both a mix of local programming and the national shows and voices of National Public Radio. It connected with the inquisitive mind of the Michigan native who says his communication gene “was honed in the kiln of English literature,” a subject he majored at the University of Wisconsin. It also satisfied his love of a wide range of music – from classical to such artists as Emmylou Harris, Taj Mahal and Mark Knopfler.
“I started listening to WUSF as soon as I moved to St. Petersburg 39 years ago,” Green says. “The station appealed to anyone with wide interest in the world. Where else are you going to hear about who’s coming to town and what’s going on? And Fresh Air is always doing interviews with authors coming out with new books. There are just so many ideas flowing from the station on a daily basis.”
Green, a natural-born storyteller with an appreciation of compelling tales told by others, was hooked. He began making small donations during pledge drives early on, but as his nest-egg grew over the years –fueled by playing the stock market astutely, in combination with various entrepreneurial pursuits, Green decided he wanted to make a bigger commitment to the station that provided the soundtrack to his life in St. Petersburg.
“I have no heirs, so I thought I should do something more for WUSF, since I listen to it four-to-six hours a day,” he explains. One day, several years ago, he called the station and wound up talking with WUSF Development Director Scott Nolan. Green offered a donation of $5,000 for the station. Yet after exploring options with Nolan and USF Assistant Foundation Vice President of Development-Gift Planning Marion Yongue, he decided to make an endowed deferred gift of $25,000 – one that will be dispersed as part of his estate in accordance with the station’s needs.
“When we were talking to Patrick about leaving a legacy, we talked about creating a named endowment,” Nolan recollects. “His first response was, ‘I really don’t need my name on anything.’ But as he thought about it, the endowment element was appealing to him, because it carries something forward. Though Patrick has lived a different life than many people have, he’s like a lot of our listeners. He’s a voracious reader and a thoughtful person. He loves a good debate. He’s very interested in politics, and in different perspectives. And that’s what he appreciates about public radio. Leaving a legacy to carry that forward is very meaningful to him.”
These days, Green no longer sails in search of a paycheck and adventure, or lives the life in foreign lands. His mobility is limited by health issues, making him rely on a motorized scooter to get around his apartment. But he can still drive, and makes a point of catching concerts or going to dinner with friends – when he’s not preparing gourmet meals and soups he learned to make from his travels. And at home, with the familiar Gulf of Mexico beyond his picture window, the radio is always tuned to the station that has enhanced Green’s life, and which will one day be enhanced by him in return.