Arnold Lee Greenberg, 82, died in Penobscot, Maine, on March 5, after a struggle with prostate cancer. Born April 25, 1938 in Chester, Pennsylvania and raised in Philadelphia, Greenberg had a rich, varied career as a writer, an educator and a restaurateur.
As a teenager, Greenberg, one of his brothers and a neighborhood friend formed The Rhythm Boys, a tap-dancing group. The boys performed at area nightclubs, burlesque shows and USO events. They regularly appeared on The Children’s Hour, a weekly television showcase of area juvenile talent that also included singer Frankie Avalon and Tucker Smith, who went on to be in the original production of West Side Story as well as the film adaptation.
An avid fisherman and baseball player from an early age, Greenberg was also a quiet, introspective and out-of-of the box thinker, and school was not always a good fit. While attending Roxborough High School, he was assigned a book report but when he submitted it in the form of a poem, his teacher flunked him and he dropped out of school in protest. Though only 17, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and sailed aboard the U.S.S. Caperton and travelled the world. After his service, Greenberg stayed at sea as a merchant marine.
Upon his return to Philadelphia, he got his G.E.D and went to Temple University on the G.I. Bill and he earned a Master’s Degree in Philosophy of Education.
His first job after graduation was at the progressive Miquon School outside of Philadelphia, where he taught 5th and 6th grade for five years. In 1970, he founded Miquon Upper School (now The Crefeld School) with his first wife Anne, a grades 7-12 institution that was part of the alternative education movement at the time. Originally located in Germantown, the school was opposed by nearby neighbors.Greenberg, however, was friendly with future Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham and widely respected environmental lawyer Robert Sugarman. They helped fend off any legal challenges. Ironically, when the school moved to a new location on Crefeld Street in Chestnut Hill, it was a block away from Mr. Rizzo’s home.
After leaving his position as headmaster at Miquon Upper School in 1978, Greenberg took his four children on a cross-country trip for six months. Greenberg then combined his interests in progressive education, organic farming and alternative energy in creating The Deep Run School of Homesteading, a gap-year program, near York, PA. Greenberg next relocated to Long Island, where he became the horticulture and husbandry director of a public high school. Soon, another interest became his focal point.
In 1984, he moved to Frenchtown, NJ with his second wife, Maggie, and renovated an abandoned train station on the banks of the Delaware River and opened The Left Bank Bakery and Cafe. He operated the business for three years before relocating it to Blue Hill, Maine. The new location became a wild success not only as a restaurant that served delicious rustic baked goods and gourmet dinners but also as a folk-jazz nightspot that hosted performers ranging from Gil Scott-Heron, Arlo Guthrie and Mose Allison to Terrence Blanchard, Odetta and Dar Williams.
After nearly 10 years, the education bug bit again and he founded Liberty School in Blue Hill.
After the Liberty School chapter, Arnold finally took time to devote himself to writing, ultimately producing nine volumes of poetry, six novels and a collection of essays about education.
With 30 Maine winters under his belt, Greenberg decided it was time for a change. He did some research and decided to start the next chapter of his life in Bocas del Toro, a small island with a large, idiosyncratic expat community off the coast of Panama, where he lived and thrived until late 2020. Before moving to Panama, he visited The Crefeld School, the progressive institution that evolved out of Miquon Upper School and proclaimed that “after nearly 50 years, the school is finally approaching the original vision for it.”
Arnold is survived by his four children, David, Julie, Daniel and Joseph, seven grandchildren, countless friends and former students and the love of his life, Rebecca.