News Center Maine outdoors reporter Bill Green in the station’s studio on Tuesday, the day after he announced he will retire in November after more than 47 years at the station. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Bill Green does not believe in wasting time.

When he was covering the World Series in Los Angeles last year for News Center Maine, he and fellow reporter Jessica Gagne were at the 18-inning Game 3 until about 3:30 a.m. East Coast time. Then they filmed a report for the early newscast. Without stopping to sleep, Green went out to Hollywood to do a story on Mainers who have stars on the Walk of Fame. Then he went back to the ballpark to cover the Red Sox beating the Dodgers.

“He can still outwork anyone. In that way, he’s a typical Mainer,” said Lee Goldberg, morning anchor at News Center Maine. “He’s not the typical news anchor with the three-piece suit and his hair all sprayed up. He’s your neighbor, working hard to get the job done.”

Green announced Monday he’ll retire from News Center Maine in Portland on Nov. 22, after 47 years on Maine television.  The announcement prompted hundreds of people across the state to praise him for his dedication to bringing them the stories other TV reporters might skip, about the state’s small towns, forgotten characters and the great outdoors. Green, 66 and a native of Bangor, said he’s been overwhelmed by the response. He deflected much of the praise, as any real Mainer would do.

“I was not great or flashy or anything, I think I just wore everyone down,” Green said Tuesday. “I’ve talked to a lot of people. I might talk to 20 people a week, getting pizza, getting coffee, so after 40 years I’ve talked to 40,000 people. I guess maybe I’ve just established a comfort level with people.”

But viewers say Green is unique among TV broadcasters because of his curiosity about Maine and its people, and the civility and respect he shows his subjects. For much of his career, Green has been known for two signature pieces, “The Green Outdoors” segments on the evening news and his Saturday half-hour news magazine show, “Bill Green’s Maine.”

“I think he never became too Portland. Even though he’s worked here a long time, he always does stories that represent all parts of Maine, and that’s important to those of us who are refugees from Aroostook County,” said Michael Bourque, now the CEO of MEMIC in Portland, but who grew up in Ashland watching Green. “He’s always a gentleman and always seems perfectly comfortable and respectful with whoever he’s talking to, no matter what crazy thing they’re doing.”

Some of his empathy for people doing “crazy” things might come from the fact that Green has done plenty himself, on camera. In the 1970s, he was heavily influenced by the participatory journalism of George Plimpton (who wrote “Paper Lion” after trying his hand at pro football) and spent much of his career trying things to give his viewers an idea of what the experience might be like. He parachuted out of an airplane and landed tangled in some brush, he landed flat on his back after falling off a horse, and he crashed a racer’s stock car, at Speedway 95 in Hermon.

This fall, he participated in the BikeMaine ride through the midcoast, and noticed a lot of apples fallen from trees along the roadside. He wondered, “Can you make a pie from all these found apples?” So, later, he went out and gathered fallen apples and made a pie, on TV.

Green chats with master control operator Beth Varipatis in the station’s control room on Tuesday. The two have worked together since she joined the station 27 years ago. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

FROM BASEBALL DREAMS TO TV

Bill Green graduated from Bangor High School nearly 50 years ago with no real thought to the future, other than his dream of being the left-fielder for the Boston Red Sox. But even that plan had problems, since Green played third base in high school, on a Bangor team that won the 1971 state championship. He had never considered a career in TV or journalism. But then one day he saw an ad in the newspaper for minimum-wage job operating a camera at WLBZ, Channel 2, in Bangor. He started in March of 1972. He says it mostly consisted of zooming in and zooming out.

He took the job and worked days while taking classes at the University of Maine at night, until he earned his degree in 1976. He said he learned how creatively a story could be told on television by working with Eddie Driscoll, a Bangor TV pioneer with the spirit of a Vaudevillian. He also worked with longtime Bangor outdoor writer and TV host Bud Leavitt, whose success lay in his authenticity.

“Bud never tried to be something he wasn’t. I never liked broadcasters with affectations, and neither did he,” Green said.

By 1975, he was on the air at WLBZ, doing sports reports and often manning the camera himself. In 1981, he moved to WLBZ’s sister station WCSH in Portland, now known as News Center Maine. There, he anchored the weekend sports reports and did sports feature stories during the week. He co-hosted a call-in show called “Sports Overtime.” When Goldberg was a student at Deering High School in the mid-1980s, he and his soccer teammates used to get together to watch Green and co-host Bruce Glasier. Goldberg said, until he saw that show, he had no idea that someone from Maine – like him or like Green – could grow up to be a sports reporter on TV. Goldberg became a sports anchor on WCSH less than a decade later.

Having grown up in Maine watching Green, Goldberg and Gagne both said they were a little in awe when they started working with him. But both also said that Green went out of his way to help them get their bearings at the station. He shared an office with Gagne, who started in 2014, and often looked over her writing for her and made suggestions. The two became friends, and when Gagne got married this year, she asked Green to officiate. He went through the process of becoming a Maine Notary Public so he could make the union legal.

“It was rough at times, trying to break into sports reporting as a woman, but Bill never doubted me and really became my No. 1 fan,” said Gagne, who grew up in Biddeford. “Working with him has meant so much to me, not just because of his ability, but because he’s genuinely a nice person.”

News Center Maine outdoors reporter Bill Green, a Bangor native, “never became too Portland,” says a longtime viewer from Aroostook County. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Green is currently working on the final segments for “The Green Outdoors” and “Bill Green’s Maine” to be shown at various times in November.  One, which has not been shot yet, will feature Green kayaking near Lincoln with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. He has often interviewed Maine politicians in unusual settings, and he had heard that Collins likes to go kayaking when she needs to get away from it all. He’s also planning a segment on the Brice-Cowell Musket, presented to the winner of the annual football game between the University of New Hampshire and the University of Maine. But it won’t be a football story, he says, it’ll be more of an antique gun story.

News Center Maine is planning a special one-hour episode of its news magazine “207” on Nov. 22 to focus on Green’s career, and will include video clips, interviews and guests. It will be filmed live at the Portland Museum of Art, and people can join the audience through the station’s Facebook page.

Green’s plans for retirement include doing a little part-time work for News Center Maine and traveling with his wife, Pam. The couple were set up on a blind date by Pam’s uncle, Bangor TV weatherman Joe Dombek. They married in 1986 and have two grown children, Sam and Emily. The couple, who live in Cumberland, would like to visit Western Canada and Hawaii, and he’s planning an Alaskan fishing trip with his brother.

Green said that after more than 40 years of traveling the state, he feels it’s time to slow down and do more with his wife. He also said that on a story last winter about ice climbing, he realized he was worried about slipping and hurting himself. That helped him decide “my time had come.”

Green said he considers himself lucky to have been able to see so much of Maine in 47 years, and do so many things he might never have done. He was even glad, he said, to be able to do a story in the rain this past Sunday in New Gloucester about Nordic skiers training on in-line skates.

“It was raining. But it will be a good story,” Green said.

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