RIP Willie Greene, Montrose fisherman | Bleader

RIP Willie Greene, Montrose fisherman


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In today's Sun-Times there's an obituary for William "Willie" Greene, lakefront fisherman and longtime owner of Park Bait bait shop at Montrose Harbor:

"Willie" Greene, as known to lakefront fishermen, died Saturday night at Quincy Veterans Home. Mr. Greene, 84, took over Park Bait, the corner bait shop at Montrose Harbor, from his employer in 1956.

"That was his life," his daughter Stacey Greene-Fenlon said. "That lake was his world. He used to get a kick out of when a kid would come in and say, 'Oh, my dad brought me here when I was little.' He loved that generational stuff."

In 2006 the Reader ran a story about Greene and his shop. In "The Last Bait Shop on the Lakefront," Edward McClelland wrote:

The front door of the Park Bait Shop at Montrose Harbor opens toward the water, away from the high-rises that line Marine Drive. White letters nailed to the rust-colored wood spell out everything needed for a day of fishing: nightcrawlers, redworms, minnows, coho bait, tackle, coffee. Inside there's a doughnut tray for early risers and glass cases full of safety-orange bobbers and sinkers that look like Civil War bullets.

Willie Greene has owned the shop since the 1950s. He's 78 now, and though his daughter Stacey handles the day-to-day business, he's still hale and crusty enough to putter around. "Give me half-a-dozen Montrose fishermen, put 'em anywhere in the world, and they can catch anything," he likes to say. With his bait they've caught perch, smallmouth bass, rock bass, salmon, smelt, and "nice-sized crappies." On sunny days the line at the counter is full of Bosnians, Mexicans, and old retired farts hoping to talk shop with Greene. If you want his undivided attention, you have to stop in when it rains.

And the story closes with:

On the way out of Greene's wood-paneled office visitors pass a photo of an era gone by: a crowded pier with so many men dipping bamboo poles into the lake it looks like a fishing derby. On the other side of the doorjamb is a sign printed with Greene's motto: THE TIME A MAN TAKES OFF TO GO FISHING IS NOT CHARGED AGAINST HIS ALLOTTED TIME ON EARTH. If that's true, Willie Greene should last another 50 years.

So not quite another 50, as it turns out. But I'd guess that Willie Greene left with few regrets.

For more on the pleasures of lakefront fishing, see Mick Dumke's story "Taking fish in by hook or by crook."

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