Grover C. (Cliff) Green was a remarkable individual with a love of the sea. He was able to pursue this passion through an adult life-long nautical career.
Born in Webster Springs, West Virginia in 1929, Cliff enlisted in the U.S. Navy as a young man at the end of World War II. His military career spanned more than 20 years. He began his National Park Service (NPS) career in 1967 at Everglades National Park and Fort Jefferson National Monument (now Dry Tortugas National Park). He served NPS with dedication and distinction for almost 40 years. His Navy experience and familiarity with Caribbean and South Atlantic waters made him ideally qualified to captain successive NPS motor vessels supplying Dry Tortugas; one of the more remote and limited access areas of the National Park System.
Over the years, he captained the M/V Tortuga, the Activa, and the Fort Jefferson. In addition to providing regular support to park staff and operations and supplies for special projects, Cliff’s efforts provided sustained support to a variety of major resource management and research projects involving endangered species and marine resource inventory and conservation. These included submerged archeology, coral, lobster, sea turtles and other biological studies, including the longest continuing study of the endangered sooty tern populations. Cliff also served as a mentor to many novice NPS divers.
Twice weekly, and more often as circumstances required, Cliff sailed the NPS flag to and from Fort Jefferson. He gained and maintained exemplary cooperative relationships with key Navy and Coast Guard personnel, as well as other Federal, State, and local agencies with important interests in and responsibilities for the region. He participated in cooperative efforts under international agreements, including the Bahamas National Trust. He was a key player in major operations often mounted in demanding circumstances. These included emergency search and rescue, growing refugee/migrant encounters, tropical storms, smuggling, visiting heads of state and senior policy and Congressional staff visits.
Above all, Captain Cliff was the consummate gentleman. He referred to everyone as “Mr.,” “Mrs.” or “Lady.” He treated everyone the same – Senators, Congressmen, visiting dignitaries, ordinary people, and fellow workers. Cliff had the unique ability to make everyone feel important. He really enjoyed having others “drive” the boat. And, kids were very special to him. When fishing with visitors (his favorite pastime) Cliff always made sure that the most timid, inexperienced person on board caught a fish. He would rig the pole, bait the hook, throw the bait to the best spot, and even hook the fish. He would then hand the pole to the least experienced person to “catch” the fish. Cliff was even known to cut the lines of husbands who had hooked a fish ahead of their wives!
Cliff Green influenced successive generations of NPS management and operations staff. For important policy level visits, he became the welcoming and experienced guide to one of the most pristine marine environments and one of the most haunting cultural sites in the nation. He remained on a first name basis with many of the visitors after their voyages ended safely back at Key West. Everyone knew Cliff, both inside and outside of the Service. He was one of the best ambassadors the National Park Service has ever had.
In recognition of his efforts, Cliff was presented the Department of the Interior’s Meritorious Service Award. He passed away August 11, 2004.