EAST TAMPA — The 34th Street Church of God was packed Saturday afternoon as friends and family said goodbye to Arthur Green Jr.
About 200 people filled the pews and took turns sharing stories, poems and songs in his honor. He gave everyone he met a different nickname, and he spent a lot of time outside doing yard work, his family said. His Christmas light display was a holiday staple in East Tampa.
“The community is going to miss him,” said Green’s son, Owen Young, the popular outgoing principal at Middleton High School.
Green, a longtime resident and neighborhood activist in Tampa Heights, died April 16 following an apparent diabetic episode. He was 63 years old.
On the day he died, Green was pulled over by police for driving erratically on Central Avenue. He was “agitated and combative,” police said, so they put him in handcuffs. One of the officers realized he was in need of medical attention and called paramedics. He died at St. Joseph’s Hospital shortly afterward.
Green’s family has consulted with lawyer Barry Cohen about the “conflicting accounts” of what happened that day.
But despite their questions about his death, everyone at Green’s memorial service was focused on honoring Green and all he did for the Tampa community. A resolution from U.S. Representative Kathy Castor was read toward the end of the service, thanking Green and his wife for all they have done for the Tampa Heights and Robles Park communities.
“He was all about the community and helping people and doing good,” said city Councilman Frank Reddick, a longtime friend of the family who attended the funeral.
Green was born in Damascus, Ga., but moved to Tampa when he was young. He graduated from Middleton High School, where he was a basketball, track and swimming star.
He was co-founder of the Robles Park Wildcats Little League Football and Cheerleading organization. His wife of 30 years, Lena Young Green, is known for her work on the Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association, Green ARTery, the Tampa Enterprise Zone Agency and the Tampa Heights Riverfront Community Redevelopment Area advisory committee.
Green’s friends and family said he was a “protector” and “father figure” in the neighborhood, keeping a close eye on its residents and their safety. He had nine children, 28 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Green always did the right thing, said Clarence Nathan, pastor of the 34th Street Church of God.
“He was a man of character,” Nathan said during the service.
Green’s son, Arthur Green III, said his father was his best friend and mentor. He was someone everyone should look up to.
“He made sure he took time out for every individual person and cared about you and what was going on with you,” he said. “Live as he did and follow his example.”