Don Green didn’t just happen.
The father of Sonoma County’s multibillion-dollar Telecom Valley and Green Music Center started out as an observant and substantially self-taught kid in war-haunted Liverpool.
Young Donald Green took note of what worked and what didn’t, what was right and what wasn’t.
He registered each finding internally — like when he returned to grammar school following a yearslong break forced by German bombing raids over England. It caught him off guard when Miss Bennington, the teacher, called on him to stand and recite a bit of the Wordsworth poem “Daffodils.”
Green recalls in his new memoir, “A bead of sweat rolled down my face and dripped onto my desk. I stood, swallowed and stammered out the first line.”
When Miss Bennington invited him to try again the next day, the 11-year-old Green sat down, “feeling like an idiot,” he wrote.
“Though that happened decades ago,” he declares in his autobiography, “I’ve never forgotten those feelings, the intense fear that accompanies speaking to others when unprepared.
“I vowed never to let it happen again.”
Green entitled his book “Defining Moments.” What happened there in Miss Bennington’s classroom in 1942 was one of them.
Many more formative moments sparkle like stars framing the constellation of Green’s extraordinarily full and prolific life. He tells in his candid, crisply written book of not considering himself a singer until, at the conclusion of an all-congregation hymn at a San Francisco church in the late 1960s, a woman in the pew just ahead “half-turned and said, ‘You have a nice voice. You should join the choir.’”
He did, and a short time later his wife and sweetheart since their teens, the former Maureen Eustace, pulled on a robe of the All Saints’ Episcopal Church choir, too.
Their ever-evolving love of choral music prompted them in 1997 to offer $10 million from the initial sale of stock of Advanced Fibre Communications of Petaluma, one of dozens of digital technology firms co-founded, invested in or influenced by Don Green, for the construction of a music hall at Sonoma State University.
Fifteen years and well more than an additional $100 million later, the namesake couple attended the grand-opening gala at SSU of the Donald and Maureen Green Music Center.
The book revisits the defining events that prompted the Greens to leave England with their young family and emigrate to Canada, where the then-23-year-old Don Green, fascinated since youth by telephones and radios, found work as phone company engineer in Montreal.
Many adventures followed, one involving a scramble up a remote tower to escape a bear.
The Greens might still be in Canada were it not for the instant the young engineer noticed that simple iron rings were common on the hands of his superiors.
He asked one wearer of the ring what is signified. “Oh, it’s no big deal,” the fellow replied. “It just means the wearer belongs to an association of engineers who graduated from a Canadian university.”
Green recalls in “Defining Moments” that he asked the man, “If it’s no big deal, why is it that every promotion since I’ve been here has gone to someone with a ring?” He watched for a while longer as steps-up went predictably to co-workers with rings.