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Obituaries & Tributes Articles - Peter Greenough

The Boston Globe , Sept.11, 2006 by Emma Stickgold, Globe Correspondent

t was 1955, and Peter Greenough , whose family owned The Plain Dealer, had just watched Beverly Sills perform. The courtship began at a party afterward.

``He winked at me, and that's how it started," Sills, who has been described as one of the century's greatest bel canto sopranos, told The Boston Globe in a 1967 interview.

They were soon married, and as her career skyrocketed on the stage, Mr. Greenough's columns made the world of finance come alive on the pages of the Globe.

Mr. Greenough, a Brookline native, died Wednesday at a Manhattan hospital. He was 89.

``He had an air of authority about him," said Ian Menzies, an editor who handled Mr. Greenough's copy for two years. ``He was well-respected inside the Globe."

Mr. Greenough was brought on as a financial columnist for the Globe in the early 1960s, and he quickly amassed a thick Rolodex that helped make his columns popular to insiders in the business community,colleagues said.

He wrote eloquently and efficiently and he had a knack for explaining complex business matters in terms that readers could easily understand, while avoiding a patronizing tone.

``His leads were interesting and attention-grabbing," Menzies said referring to the first paragraphs of Mr. Greenough's columns.

Mr. Greenough often began his columns with a clever analogy or a snappy string of words that enticed readers to read further.

``Monetary reform and New England's weather have much in common," he wrote in one 1965 column. ``If you don't like one plan, wait a bit. Another will be along shortly."

In another from the same year, he wrote, ``Consider the economy as a giant rubber punching bag. Hit one segment of it and another side pops out to cushion the shock."

Another column compared the business world to Hollywood.

``Business is starting like a bunch of movie directors, all screaming in unison: CUT!" he wrote in a 1962 column. ``Income taxes, that is."

In some columns, his witty side shown through.

``In a nutshell, peanut manufacturers have problems," he began one 1965 column.

In the body of his columns, Mr. Greenough questioned whether poorer nations were getting enough US aid, and he wrote of the growth of the technology companies finding homes on Interstate 495. He filed his columns from around the nation, and it was not uncommon for a foreign country to appear on his datelines.

He was generally quite private, Menzies said, but in at least one column he described the scene at home and tied it into his coverage of the gross national product.

``Courtesy of my Mrs., I have become a misplaced statistic these past couple of day," he wrote. ``Milady is in New York rehearsing for an opera, and I am tending to the home fires. That includes a fair bit of child-minding. Something that does not fit at all under the category of economic statistics or any of the reckonings that go into making up our Gross National Product. Fortunately, kids nap."

Mr. Greenough graduated from Milton Academy in 1935, from Harvard College in 1939, and from the Columbia School of Journalism in 1940. He was a lieutenant in the Army Air Corps during World War II.

He worked for nearly two decades as a reporter, copy editor, business editor, and associate editor at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland before coming to the Globe in 1961. While in Boston, his family lived in Milton.

He left the journalism business in 1969 to tend to family affairs.

In addition to Sills, he leaves four daughters, Lindley Thomasett of Bedford, N.Y., Nancy Bliss of Woodstock, N.Y., Diana of Lancaster, and Meredith of Manhattan; a son, Peter Jr. of Manhattan; and two grandchildren.

Services have been held.