“Love at first sight” sounds like such a movie cliche you can’t possibly imagine it happening for real.
But in the latter half of the 1960s, that’s what happened when Gerald Greene met the woman who would become his wife, Rose Ellen Greene.
Greene, who died Sunday at 78, was a decade older than his teen bride, a transfer student from New York University to the University of Miami, but his smile was irresistible. They wed after only four or five dates.
“What everyone knows about my husband is how very supportive he was of me,” Rose Ellen said of the man she was married to for 47 years and with whom she raised daughters Samantha Brous and Vanessa Steinberg.
“I was 19 and he was 30 when we first met and it was love at first sight and we were very lucky because we only went on a few dates when we were married.
“We married the summer of my junior year and I had my first child the week I graduated from UM. People don’t do those things anymore,” she said, laughing.
Gerald went on to a career as a manager at brokerage firms Bache & Co., Herzfeld & Stern and Purcell, Graham & Co. in Miami Beach and Bay Harbor Islands, and would mentor younger brokers through the years.
Rose Ellen became an arts and culture leader in Miami through her various board, chairman, trustee and presidency roles with the Center for the Fine Arts, the Florida Philharmonic, Miami Art Museum, New World Symphony and University of Miami. Together, the two were inseparable in philanthropy, family and friendship.
“Jerry and Rose Ellen were a splendid team, caring equally and jointly and fully about the arts and the community. They loved to be with people, and people loved to be with them,” said David Lawrence Jr., former Miami Herald publisher and Rose Ellen’s successor as chair of what is now the Pérez Art Museum Miami.
Gerald Greene was born in New York City, a proud “Brooklyn boy,” but followed his sister Sharon Goldberg and her husband to Miami in 1955. He ran for, and won, a Democratic committee position in 1967.
In the Bicentennial year, Greene was elected as a delegate pledged to Jimmy Carter at the 1976 Democratic National Convention in New York City. “He was very involved in that campaign,” his wife said. “It was so exciting to be down on the floor to witness all of that.”
Carter served a single term as president after defeating President Gerald Ford in the November election.
“He was very proud to be a liberal and was always fighting the windmill, so to speak. I don’t know why, perhaps it was from his family while growing up in Brooklyn. His father was active in union politics. Perhaps that. But he was always very sensitive to the underdog,” Rose Ellen said from their Coral Gables home, where Greene loved tending to his orchid collection.
“Everyone who knows my husband has said he was just the sweetest, most gentle person they have ever met. He had a wonderful quality of being loving, non-judgmental. Don’t we all wish we had a husband and parents like that?”
In addition to his wife and daughters, Greene is survived by grandchildren Brandon, Ethan, Ryan and Holly. Services were held. Contribution in Greene’s memory can be made to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces at www.fidf.org.