DANIEL GREENSON

Obituary

Daniel Peter Greenson The world lost one of its most colorful characters June 1, when Daniel Peter Greenson - a devoted father, loving husband and talented psychiatrist - died of pneumonia, his wife and one of his sons by his side. He was 74. Born Aug. 24, 1937 to Hildi and Romi Greenson in Los Angeles, Danny lived in the Bay Area for 50 years, building a career, finding love, forming a family and leaving his mark on almost all who knew him. A gregarious, outgoing man, Danny loved to connect with people, approaching each day with an appetite for life that sometimes left stains on his shirt. In no place was this approach more evident than with his family and friends, whom he cherished above all else. He loved his wife, Barbara McSwain, wholly and completely and blanketed their four children with both affection and attention, taking immense joy in the birth of his five grandkids. Danny's life was guided by a fierce belief in the equality and inherent worth of all people. While studying at the University of California Berkeley, he helped lay roots for what would later become the Free Speech Movement. In 1965, he marched with Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma to Montgomery in support of civil rights. He fervently protested the Vietnam War, and did the same for every American war thereafter, believing in peace not bombs. A graduate of the University of Southern California School of Medicine's class of 1964, Danny was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1966, and spent two years stationed at Fort Dix, New Jersey, where he treated soldiers returning home from the war and earned an Army Commendation Medal in 1967. Upon his honorable discharge, he moved to the Bay Area to finish his medical residency at Mt. Zion Hospital, where he was named chief resident in 1969, and later began training to become a psychoanalyst - following in the footsteps of his father and finding his life's work helping people. After graduating from the San Francisco Psychoanalytic Institute in 1977, Danny would work to do away with antiquated rules that limited admittance to psychoanalytic training to medical doctors, opening the door to a new generation of analysts. Danny's private practice would span more than 40 years, continuing until the day of his death and touching many lives. But those who knew him best will remember Danny for the moments between those noted here - his tender hugs, his sage advise dispensed with a warm smile, his wonderful stories told over a good meal. And they will remember his sense of humor, which was sometimes crass, but always playful, and turned the world into a stage. Danny was also able to artfully employ this humor to cloak his candor, giving him a unique ability to convey ideas and insights in ways that resonated, penetrating people's defenses. Some of his happiest moments were spent with a fishing pole in hand and a mangled cigar dangling from his mouth, the ocean air tussling his explosion of curly hair. He loved sports and attending ballgames, but seemed to appreciate the camaraderie of the events more than the games themselves. He enjoyed travelling, and relished recent trips with Barbara to see lions and elephants on the Serengeti, experience the heterogeneous cultures of Turkey and pet gray whales in the waters off Baja California. Survived by his mother, Hildi, his sister, Joan Aebi, his wife, Barbara, his four children, David, Jessica, Nikolas and Thadeus, and five grandchildren, Danny will be horribly missed, yet fondly remembered. His legacy will also live on in a long line of lives that he touched with his insight, disarming honesty, uproarious humor, vivacious spirit and tender, loving heart. Celebrations of Daniel's life will be held from 2 to 5 p.m. on July 1 in the Snow Building at the Oakland Zoo and from 2 to 5 p.m. on July 28 at the California Institute of Technology's Dabney Lounge and Garden in Pasadena. All who would like to join Danny's family in celebrating his life are invited to attend. Donations can be made in his honor to National Public Radio.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on June 17, 2012
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