Saturday, January 21, 2006

Obituary for Allan Greenwood

Obituary: Housing advocate inspired others battling nerve disease

Friends and colleagues of California Housing Finance Agency lawyer Allan D. Greenwood spoke with admiration Friday as they described his courageous battle against ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease.

Virtually paralyzed by the degenerative illness, the 49-year-old resident of Elk Grove continued to work from home, using a specially equipped computer, until late 2005. He died Saturday.

A graduate of Santa Clara University School of Law, he had worked for the housing agency in Sacramento since 2000, hammering out financing deals for affordable housing developments.

Mr. Greenwood had previously been legal counsel at the Federal Land Bank Association of Yosemite in Turlock, and Western Farm Credit Bank in Sacramento.

He was diagnosed with ALS in June 2003, about six months after he began slurring his speech, said his wife, Sheila Souza Greenwald.

Almost immediately after that diagnosis, she said, he cut back to part time, started working from home and traveled with his family as much as he could. By the end of 2004, he needed a wheelchair. He lost his ability to speak by early 2005, and by summer "was pretty much completely incapacitated," his wife said.

Throughout the ordeal, Mr. Greenwood - who was known for his strong-willed personality - refused to feel sorry for himself, said Rick Okikawa, a friend and colleague.

In addition to playing a key role in his son's life, Mr. Greenwood was a voracious reader and an avid skier, scuba diver, private pilot and runner. He also enjoyed working in the yard of his family's home in the Laguna section of Elk Grove.

"As you know with ALS, it is a rare neuromuscular disease where the victim remains mentally alert, but slowly loses the use of the body," Okikawa said. "In essence, an ALS victim is trapped in their own body, unable to perform basic functions independently.

"It's a brutal disease, it really is. But what made Allan exceptional was the way he faced adversity. He remained very positive."

Terri Parker, executive director of the agency, called him not only an excellent attorney, but "just the essence of human dignity, a role model for all of us."

Born in Los Angeles County, Allan Davis Greenwood was raised in Oregon and Santa Clara County. His parents divorced when he was in elementary school, and his father died when he was 12.

By the time Mr. Greenwood was 16, he was living on his own, supporting himself by working two jobs while attending high school in San Jose, his wife said. He later enrolled at the University of Oregon, where he graduated in 1981 with a bachelor's degree in English literature.

At Santa Clara University, he earned an MBA and a law degree concurrently, again working two or three jobs at a time to pay his expenses, his wife said.

"He worked as a house painter and as a waiter, mostly in upscale restaurants," she said.

The couple met in 1994 at an office Christmas party. She was working as a loan officer. They married May 8, 1998, and had one son, Christopher, now 6.

In the mid-1990s, his wife said, Mr. Greenwood prepared a timeline for the rest of his life: By 2015, be semi-retired, have a commercial pilot's license and be teaching English part time at a community college.

"He felt that a man was defined by his life experiences," his wife said, "There was always something new he wanted to do, and he never hesitated. He didn't have the inhibitions most of us have.

"Allan experienced more in his lifetime than most of us will experience if we live to be 100. That's the only thing that makes this easier to accept."

Allan Davis Greenwood
Born: Jan. 2, 1957
Died: Jan. 14, 2006

Remembered for: His courage and good humor while battling the deadly Lou Gehrig's Disease

Survived by: Wife, Sheila Souza Greenwood of Laguna; son, Christopher of Laguna; sisters, Janice Wright of Portland, Ore., Melinda Plummer of Eugene, Ore., and Cindy Greenwood of San Jose

Memorial services: 1 p.m. Wednesday, Good Shepherd Church, 9539 Racquet Court, Elk Grove

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for posting Allan's obituary. He was my Dad's cousin and was among the most likeable people I've met. I'm terribly sorry about his passing but look forwarding to seeing everyone at his service.