William E. Greenwood
WESTLAKE, Texas – It is with deep sorrow and much love that we announce the passing of William Edward (Bill) Greenwood, 85, retired Chief Operating Officer of Burlington Northern Railroad. He died peacefully on Sept. 22, 2023, in Westlake, Texas, surrounded by his loving family. A devout Catholic, Bill was guided by his faith and now rests in his eternal home.
Family and friends are invited to attend Bill’s visitation, which will be held on Thursday, Sept. 28, from 5-8 p.m. at Lucas Funeral Home located at 1601 S. Main St, Keller, Texas. The Rosary service starts at 7 p.m. A funeral mass will be held in his honor on Friday, Sept. 29 at 11 a.m. at St Francis of Assisi Catholic Church located at 861 Wildwood Lane, Grapevine, Texas. The interment will take place directly after mass at Westlake Cemetery located at 3101 J T Ottinger Road in Westlake, Texas.
Bill was born on June 8, 1938, in Galesburg, to Dorothy Bohan Greenwood and Charles Hugh Greenwood. He grew up in Mendota, with his four sisters, Shirley, Audrey, Mary Lou and Connie. Bill’s father, a World War I veteran, was President of the First National Bank of Triumph. Bill’s mother was known for her Emily Post-like manners along with her talent for playing the piano. Bill demonstrated his work ethic starting at the very young age of five where he delivered eggs to the neighborhood grocery store. A few years later he took on a newspaper route and mowed lawns and worked as a gas station attendant. The gas station tow truck was an absolute thrill for him to drive and operate. At Holy Cross Catholic Church, Bill was an altar boy for many years. In high school and college, Bill worked summers for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (CB&Q – later known as Burlington Northern); starting in 1956 as a Telegrapher and Tower Operator, where his passion for railroading took root. These early experiences deeply molded his character and guided his development. From an early age Bill had a wonderful, playful sense of humor that was combined with an incredibly infectious laugh. These traits were a source of joy for all that knew him. He possessed a unique ability to find humor in nearly all situations, a testament to his optimistic outlook on life.
Bill is survived by his wife Falah; children Susan (Del) McCormick, Katherine (Kevin) Oeding, John (Wendy) Greenwood; grandchildren Natalie, Caroline, Nicholas, Will, Mac, Matthew, Katherine, Annaliese; sister Connie Hanley; Falah’s children Charles (BobbyeJo) Crouch, Brad Crouch, Falah Beth Espensen; Falah’s grandchildren Tristan, Elizabeth.
Bill was preceded in death by his first wife, Colleen; his sisters Shirley, Audrey, Mary Lou; his parents Charles and Dorothy.
Bill was a proud graduate of Mendota High School, Class of 1956. His high school class was a tightly bonded group of individuals that included his future wife, Colleen. The members of his high school class maintained their friendship throughout their lives, celebrating annual class reunions, usually coinciding with the Sweet Corn Festival in Mendota.
After graduating from Marquette University in 1960, Bill was drafted into the Army. He served on active duty for six months and as a reservist for six years. His active duty was cut short due to the death of his father. To help support the family during this challenging time, Bill joined his father’s workplace at the bank. After a few years, he rejoined the CB&Q Railroad in 1963 reigniting his passion for the railroad industry. He was promoted into various operating, planning, and marketing positions every 18 to 24 months, steadily moving up the ranks until he was eventually appointed Chief Operating Officer of Burlington Northern Railroad.
In the Spring of 1966, Bill and Colleen exchanged vows at Holy Cross Catholic Church in Mendota. Their union blessed them with three children, Susan (McCormick), Kathy (Oeding) and John. They shared a wonderful life together raising their family while navigating Bill’s career. Their frequent travel to events and corporate gatherings provided richly rewarding friendships and experiences. During their journey, they relocated on a regular basis establishing residences in various cities across Illinois, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota and Texas. Bill and Colleen were fantastic parents and grandparents who provided unconditional support, guidance and endless love.
Upon Bill’s retirement from Burlington Northern in 1994, he and Colleen built their dream home selecting an undeveloped wooded area in the Town of Westlake, which at the time only had a population of 250. Over its history, the home was the setting of countless personal, professional, and philanthropic gatherings.
Bill served as the President of the Planning & Zoning Commission for the Town of Westlake. Throughout his extensive tenure, he consistently championed the vision of the original town charter, prioritizing the seamless integration of the town with its natural surroundings. Bill was particularly passionate about protecting the dark skies above Westlake by limiting light pollution from houses, buildings and streets. Over the years, countless developers faced off with Bill and were determined to alter the look and feel of the town, but under his resolute leadership they were never successful.
Bill and Colleen were blessed with eight grandchildren, Natalie, Caroline, Nicholas, Will, Mac, Matthew, Katherine & Annaliese whom they cherished. They loved spending time together enjoying their home in Westlake.
Describing them as proud grandparents would be an understatement. Sadly, his beautiful wife Colleen passed away unexpectedly in 2009 due to health complications.
A few years later, Bill was blessed to meet his future wife, Falah Benton Crouch of Fort Worth, Texas. Bill was immediately captivated by Falah’s vibrant energy and outgoing nature. As a socially active couple, they enjoyed spending time with friends, hosting family gatherings, travelling, and savoring life’s memories together. Falah converted to Catholicism and they married in 2018. Falah, along with her children and grandchildren, brought immense happiness, laughter, and joy to Bill’s life. Additionally, Falah provided unwavering support throughout his battle with cancer.
Bill stood out as an exemplary leader known for his ability to unite people to achieve transformational results. Bill’s innate skill as a people person enabled him to build some powerful teams. His personal leadership style was participative and collaborative rather than top-down. This was a rarity in the railroad culture during his day. Bill worked outside the box to resolve complicated, seemingly intractable problems. Throughout his career he used his skills to mediate conflicts between individuals, between management and labor unions, and between the railroad and neighboring communities. The result was always the same, a more safe, focused, and cohesive workforce, enhanced operational productivity, and better customer service and shareholder value.
Bill is considered a “founding father” of the railroad industry’s intermodal business. Before and during Bill’s involvement, the industry essentially dismissed intermodal as not viable. The intermodal innovations Bill led and inspired transformed Burlington Northern into the industry leader. Intermodal is now a vital pillar of the railroad business and the global supply chain. The foundation Bill and his team laid for intermodal transportation was key to the growth and prosperity of the entire railroad industry in the 2000s.
His natural people skills combined with his executive background and leadership training enabled him to provide coaching and mentorship to those fortunate enough to cross his path both personally and professionally. These qualities, complemented by his sense of humor, added lightness and approachability to his interactions, making him even more relatable and effective as a leader and mentor.
After Bill retired from Burlington Northern he focused on serving as a shareholder advocate while assisting various corporations as a member of their board of directors including: Mark VII, Transcisco Industries, Remington Oil and Gas, and Dune Energy. He also acted on his passion for business education by serving as an adjunct instructor teaching a graduate level Special Topics class at Texas Christian University Neeley School of Business. Additionally, Bill served on the Marquette University Business School Advisory Board of Directors and was actively involved as an instructing contributor to Denver University Transportation Institute and Northwestern University Transportation Center. Locally, Bill served on the board of Westlake Academy Foundation as well as the Rocky Top Therapy Center.
Bill dedicated himself to capturing, preserving and communicating railroad history because of his deep appreciation for its rich heritage and profound significance. In 2008, Bill accepted a volunteer role with the National Railroad Hall of Fame in Galesburg. As a respected senior advisor, Bill was the singular force behind creation of the Hall of Fame's “Rail Industry Advisory Group”, a blue-ribbon panel of scholars and railroad professionals whose credentials span all sectors and geographic regions of the industry. Bill served as the group's Chair from 2008 to 2018, when he was named Chair Emeritus. For his dedication to advancing the Hall of Fame and honoring the stories of the people whose life work shaped the industry he loved, Bill was awarded the Hall of Fame's 'Engines of Freedom' medallion in 2017. Additionally, when the Mendota Museum & Historical Society was founded, Bill became its first President of the Board of Directors in 1995. His personal involvement with the Society was essential. His enthusiasm, experience, direction, generosity and railroad knowledge were vital in the formation and operation of the affiliated Union Depot Railroad Museum. After being Board President for 27 years, Bill still served the Society as President Emeritus for the past year. He was also actively involved with the Lexington Group for Transportation History and his passion for transportation history led to the establishment of a collection of his railroad archives at the John W. Barriger National Railroad Library.
In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests contributions to be made to the National Railroad Hall of Fame, a 501(c)(3) organization that held a special place in Bill’s heart and would greatly benefit from your support.