John Eldon Green remembered for his large social stamp

Pioneer in social services in P.E.I. dies at 87

Jim Day
Published on June 11, 2014
John Eldon Green
Guardian file photo

His vision was always one of an all-inclusive society.

John Eldon Green would push, and push some more, to help open doors across Prince Edward Island as an architect of change.

Green, who died peacefully Sunday at the Prince Edward Home at age 87, is being remembered for his large social stamp.

The opinionated (he wrote letters and columns that regularly appeared in The Guardian on a host of subjects including politics, religion and societal woes, among others), thoughtful former deputy minister of social services spent 31 years establishing a province-wide social services system with extensive links to other professions.

Green was best known as a social reformer when he stepped into what would be a decade-long role as deputy minister. It was in this position where he looked for opportunities to make structural changes in the department to better assist vulnerable individuals to participate more fully in society.

In the 1970s, P.E.I. became the first province to fund occupational therapy within social services instead of health. For Green, this was a way to reduce lumbering costs and increase the quality of life for senior citizens, persons with disabilities, developmentally challenged and other citizens in need.

Mary Boyd, herself long a determined fighter for social change, saw Green as a man who truly felt for the plight of the less fortunate in society.

He made a point, she said, of pointing out that the many in need of social assistance generally are good people who have encountered tough times.

“I think his compassion was the thing that struck me,’’ says Boyd. “It helped to take away stereotypes.’’

During a long pioneering career in the field of social services, as a civil servant and deputy minister, Green was in frequent contact with premiers, ministers and senior officials, both nationally and on P.E.I., but also in touch, and in tune, with the poorest of the poor.

Green began his career on P.E.I. in 1950, after graduating from St. Dunstan’s University in 1947 and then earning a social work degree in Washington, D.C.

It was during this time that John and his wife, Mary, started their family of eight children. Mary had been a teacher before deciding to focus on raising the children and supporting Green in his career.

“Our shared values on the importance of higher education and social justice guided our family life and my professional life,’’ Green said in 2012 while being honoured for his efforts in combining occupational therapy and social work.

In 2009, he launched a book called Still Laughing: Afterthoughts of an Albany Boy, a collection of reflections about life, love, politics and religion. He noted at the time that being in his 80s was a state of “aging but by no means old.’’

Green is survived by his wife of 62 years, Mary (nee Sigsworth), and seven children. He was predeceased by his young son, John Eldon Green, Jr.

Visitation is Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. at Hillsboro Funeral Home in Stratford. A funeral mass will be celebrated Friday at 10 a.m. at the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer in Charlottetown.