EDITOR’S NOTE: Fred Greiner was a man who should have been the subject of a newspaper feature story long before an obituary was needed. His family characterized him as husband, father, grandfather, psychiatrist, financial analyst, cattle rancher, real estate developer, world traveler and friend.
Friends would characterize him as the original expat Renaissance man. He was a physician and psychiatrist who called himself a grass farmer and a grazier. He died April 10. The following information was provided by the family.
Fred Loranton Greiner, Sr., was born in Toledo, Ohio on March 14, 1937. His highly-developed intellect and wide-ranging ambitions were shaped early in life by his father, an inventor, university professor, entrepreneur, and scientist who fled pre-war Germany to America. Greiner excelled academically at an early age, especially at military school, where he says he learned discipline, and how to get more from the system by working with it rather than bucking it. He graduated high school early, and went on to earn a medical degree at Emory University in 1961.
He then became an intern at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, where he met his first wife, Janelle. Rather than beginning a residency program in medicine, Fred chose to first serve his country as an Air Force flight surgeon stationed in Bitburg, Germany. He flew missions throughout Europe and the Mideast, serving on a rapid response recovery team for the Mercury and Gemini space flights. He also won commendations and awards for inventing in-flight surgical equipment, and for an emergency medical evacuation of King Idris of Libya.
After military service, Fred returned to Atlanta, entered a residency program in psychiatry, began a successful practice, and raised three children. He became president of the Georgia Psychiatric Association in 1978, and frequently served as a court appointed expert on medicines.
In the 1970’s, Greiner balanced his professional life with a passion for fishing with family and friends, and he set many light-tackle records along the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Amelia Island areas.
During this time, Greiner also began developing property, which eventually included apartment buildings, condominiums, and commercial shopping centers. At this point, Greiner decided that a better understanding of economics would serve him well in his business ventures. Like everything else that he focused his attention on, Greiner became an expert economist and financial analyst, a skill that not only helped him succeed in property development, but also in stock market investing.
In the early 1980s, Greiner visited Costa Rica, an adventure that was to shape the remainder of his life. He became an expert grass farmer and cattleman, and built several large cattle ranches in the beautiful tropics. For the next 30 years, he refined the genetics of his cattle and grasses with skill and accomplishment that industry experts admire.
This tribute is from Loray Greiner, one of the three children:
Most people who knew my father will remember him for the enormous amount of knowledge he had acquired on an enormous number of subjects. He was the ultimate student. Where most people might take a casual interest in something, my father would immerse himself in the subject, study the research literature, correspond with experts until he eventually became an expert himself. It was amazing to watch him in conversation, unless of course, you were trying to win an argument against him!
His love affair with Costa Rica, its people, horses, and cattle, began a little more than 30 years ago, when he visited the country as part of a medical convention. He quickly setup a residence in La Garita, and became a member of the Asociacion Costarricense de Criadores de Caballos de Pura Raza Espanola. With the help of his close friend and master trainer, Felix Rodriguez Paniagua, Greiner established stables in La Garita and raised numerous award-winning horses, including at least one Costa Rican Grand Champion.
In his early years here, Greiner took up dry rice farming, and was a quick study. But then the government fixed the price of rice below his cost, and refused to let him export it. Rather than give in to the government, he burned the rice and switched to cattle.
Greiner started with Brahman cattle, like everyone else. But being a perfectionist and having an inquisitive mind, he began to search for ways to improve his cattle operation. He studied research on grasses in all the tropical regions of the world, imported several species for experimentation and eventually developed highly-productive pastures from a mix of African grasses called Bracharia.
He also wanted to make a better piece of beef. So he experimented with various cross breeds, and eventually developed a Brahman-Angus cross that gave the best of both. Unlike the pure European breeds, his “Brangus” cattle thrived in the hot tropics, had the big chest and tender meat of the Angus, and the big Brahman rump.
Greiner was also an early adopter and proponent of environmentally-friendly practices, back when it was still a novel idea. He discouraged the use of granular fertilizer, which kills the beneficial micro organisms in the soil. He steadfastly refused to use hormones on his cattle. He virtually eliminated the need for parasite medications by studying the life cycle of parasites, and simply making sure that the cattle were moved to another pasture when the parasites hatched out of the manure. He also imported environmentally friendly (and cost effective) gravity-fed water wheel pumps to deliver water to his cattle. In short, he understood the importance of the soil and grass, which most cattlemen simply take for granted. When you asked him to describe what he did, he wouldn’t say that he was a cattle rancher. He said he was a grass farmer and a grazier.
Greiner’s biggest hope was to eventually reverse the long, dramatic decline in Costa Rica’s national cattle herd and to help the country develop a name for quality beef. He worked hard to change the monopoly pricing by the slaughter houses, which squeeze cattle producers’ margins and refuse to pay a premium for quality beef. Unfortunately, not much has changed at the slaughter houses, and Greiner’s cattle operation sells its beef direct to Auto Mercado, and will soon start exporting to Asia. But Greiner’s achievements are still here as a shining example of a better and more successful path into the future. Let’s hope that his three decades of Costa Rican experiments and learning are not lost.
In the 1990’s, Fred met and fell in love with his wife, Gaylyn. Together, they travelled extensively and eventually established residence between Hutchison Island, Florida, Costa Rica, and Lugano, Switzerland.
For the past four years, Fred has battled polycystic kidney disease and was to receive a kidney from Gaylyn Turpin Greiner. Unfortunately, his physical strength failed him before that could happen. He passed peacefully and comfortably in Gaylyn’s arms with family by his side, exactly as he wanted.
In addition to his wife, Greiner is survived by his children and grandchildren: Loray Greiner and wife, Susanne van Laarhoven, and their children Nicolas and Isabel Greiner, of Bangkok, Thailand; Kathryn Chartrand Greiner Koth and her husband, Jeff, and their children Dalton and Wyatt Koth of Peachtree City, Georgia; and KaiVan Nelson Greiner and his wife, Kelly, and their children Sutherlan and Nelson Greiner of Birmingham, Alabama.
He is also survived by his stepdaughters, their spouses and grandchildren: Christi and Johnny Howell of Helena, Georgia, and Lucinda and Seth Cantrell, and their children, Cari and Luci Cantrell of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.
He is also survived by his brother, Albert Greiner, and wife, Jola; two nieces, Amy and Lexie, and nephew, Tony.
The family is planning a celebratory memorial service. The date will be announced and family and friends will be notified in the near future.
Anyone who wants to make a charitable donation in honor of Fred Greiner, can consider either the Polycystic Kidney Foundation (9221 Ward Parkway, Suite 400, Kansas City, MO 64114-3367) or the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, earmarked for research purposes (The MS Life Center, 1117 Perimeter Center West, Suite E101, Atlanta, GA 30338 Phone: 678-672-1000).