Remembering Lois Greene, ‘Woman Warrior’ who fought racial injustice and raised a multi-racial family

An educator who inspired through food, books and unwavering love, Greene embraced local sports teams, loved huskies and Asian philosophies, refused to sit at concerts and left the Midwest and never looked back.

Lois Greene. Courtesy: The Greene family

Lois Amy Chase Greene passed peacefully Nov. 10, 2021, at the age of 76 in Kaiser Hospital, Antioch, California. Her sons, Jordan and Zack, were at her side.

Lois and Ron’s wedding announcement. Courtesy: Greene family

Lois was born on Aug. 14, 1945, in Alexandria, Louisiana, to Bernice and Jules Chase. She was raised in Whitefish Bay, a village in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She met Ron Greene, her husband and soulmate when they were undergraduates at Northwestern University. She graduated from the School of Journalism and turned down a prestigious political internship in Washington DC to marry Ron. Lois and Ron were married 45 years until his death in 2012. After medical school at Northwestern, Ron was drafted into the Air Force. Lois and Ron offered to serve an additional year if they could be stationed in the location of their choice, Japan.

As a military couple, Lois and Ron embraced Japan as home. They immersed themselves in the culture and had many wonderful adventures. They visited shrines, stayed in temples and joined in local festivals. Lois and Ron traveled dense urban areas and small country backroads in a yellow Dodge van, named “Mr. Sunshine,” larger than most Japanese trucks at the time. They caused a “major international incident” when they drove Mr. Sunshine down the narrow cobblestone streets of the traditional Gion, Kyoto’s famous geisha district. The local community, law enforcement, fire brigade and business owners joined to help them back out, carefully avoiding the historic wooden architecture of shops, restaurants and tea houses. Lois studied ikebana, photography, the people, customs and cultural mores of Japan. Deliberate floral arrangements always greeted visitors in Japan and the U.S., photos of her rich personal connection to Japan hung on her walls. Lois and Ron adopted their first child, Jordan, in Tokyo. Soon after, in 1974, they returned to the U.S. and settled in Berkeley.

Lois Greene in Japan. Credit: The Greene family

Lois was a voracious reader. Books opened the world to her; she would often read a novel overnight. Catcher in the Rye, mystery thrillers by female authors, Between the World and Me, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, The Hate You Give to name a few books of thousands she read. She was a keen observer of people. At an early age, she developed an awareness of social and racial injustice and the exceptional qualities of all people. Influenced by the book The Family Nobody Wanted by Helen Doss, Lois embraced diversity and began the roadmap to her multi-racial family. Lois and Ron adopted four children: Jordan, her son of Japanese ancestry; Sasha, her daughter of bi-racial black and white background; Jesse, half Korean and black son; Zack, her biological son; and Joseph, her son of Mexican descent. Her children were her life. A critical thinker, she encouraged everyone around her to do the same. With her dry wit and worldly knowledge, she could make you laugh, smile and reconsider ideology. Lois often could be found on Facebook trolling racists or engaging in multicultural discussions with Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z.

Lois had a passion for cooking. She took great pride in researching traditional recipes, experimenting with international flavors, sauces, meats, crustaceans, fish, cheeses, spices, cultural kitchenware and serving utensils. In college, she was the first of her friends to use a wok. Self-taught, she became a magnificent cook. Lois entertained guests and hosted dinner parties regularly. Her home menu spanned continents and cultures, her dishes included oxtail stew, dumplings, tonkatsu, fondu, falafel, jambalaya, latkes, smoked meats and salmon, salads, Indian curries, homemade kimchi and a much-improved family meatloaf recipe. Dinner often was served with California Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon from a North Bay winery. Lois had many musical interests, which included Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Rod Stewart, Axel Rose, Paris and Eminem. She always stood and danced at concerts, ignoring requests to sit down. “We are at a concert; I don’t sit at concerts!” she would reply.

Lois Greene with her mom, Bernice Chase. Courtesy: The Greene family

As the office manager, Lois ran Rainbow Pediatrics with Ron, with locations in Richmond and Pinole. She later was a special education teacher at College Park High School in Pleasant Hill. Lois took a personal interest in the lives of her students. She showed empathy and compassion for each one. Lois was a tireless advocate and supporter, most effectively, for those who had the greatest life challenges. She understood syntax, education, race and economic background is not a measure of intelligence. Lois made everyone feel warm, welcome and relevant.

View a website celebrating Lois Greene’s life

Loyal to local teams, she was a fan of the Oakland Athletics, San Francisco 49ers and Golden State Warriors. She let people know the cutest A’s were Eric Chavez and Kurt Suzuki. Lois and Ron were 49er season ticket holders and attended games together at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, during the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s. She was in Pasadena to cheer on her alma mater, Northwestern in 1996, their last visit to the Rose Bowl. A long-time husky owner, Lois was an intense follower of Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. She enjoyed hosting dinner parties, walks to Vivoli’s Gelato in Walnut Square, shopping at the co-op at Shattuck and Cedar, hiking 15 miles daily on Strawberry Canyon trails, driving on Arlington Avenue in her silver and maroon Volvo 544, watching Japanese Grand Sumo Tournaments and contributing to Facebook ramen groups. Three separate times in her life, Lois lost over 100 pounds.

Lois and Ron enjoyed being local tour guides for out-of-town guests. Destinations included Yosemite to stay at The Ahwahnee Lodge, Poor Red’s for barbecue and Golden Cadillacs on their way back from cross country skiing in Tahoe, wineries on Highway 29, 101 and the Silverado Trail and extended weekends in Mendocino, Monterey and Carmel.

On her 50th birthday, Lois got an extremely large shoulder-to-elbow tattoo in vibrant color. Often admired by bikers, her Asian-themed tattoo featured a dragon rising from a lotus flower. Behind the dragon were menacing, turbulent clouds above unpredictable waves and at the top, written in Japanese kanji, the characters for “Woman Warrior.”

Lois is survived by her five children, Jordan, Jesse, Sasha, Zachary and Joseph; her grandchildren, Mischa, Darius and Noelani; her brother- and sister-in-law Ted and Frances; Aunt Emilyn; six cousins and her dog Reilly. She was preceded in death by her husband, Ron, and her parents, Bernice and Jules Chase.