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Beach Jan 2018

each Harrison

each Harrison Greenberg's senior photo. Photo courtesy the Greenberg family

The boy and the pier First of two parts A rendering of the "reimagined" Roundhouse Aquarium, expected to open by Memorial Day. Courtesy Cambridge Seven Associates How Michael Greenberg transformed the loss of his son into a gift for the place that made him by Mark McDermott Michael Greenberg was in England on business when the call came that every parent fears most. It was April 7, 2015. His oldest son, 19-year-old Harrison Greenberg, was on the other side of the world. Harrison, heir to the family business, Skechers, was 90 days into a four month internship in China. He was traveling with his cousin Colton, and they’d taken a six day break to visit Thailand while en route to a work assignment in Vietnam. The call was from Michael’s brother, and Colton’s father, Scott Greenberg. Hotel workers had found Harrison dead in his room. He and Colton had come back to the hotel together that night, and Harrison had ordered room service as Colton went to his own room to go to bed. Harrison apparently choked to death while eating his room service meal. Michael would later watch the hotel’s video surveillance footage to catch a last glimpse of his son alive, buoyantly getting off the elevator with his cousin, eager, as always, to keep on going. Harrison had always been an unusual kid. He wasn’t a conventionally good student; he was diagnosed with ADD and was willfully independent to a sometimes maddening degree, his father would later recall. But he was extraordinarily good at self-educating, possessed a quick mind and broad curiosity, and had a nose for business, technology, and travel. He’d started learning on computers at the age of three, enthusiastically attended business conferences with his father throughout his boyhood, manufactured bitcoin at home while still in high school, and traveled extensively in Asia during his teenage years. “One thing I'll say about Harrison is that even though he passed early in life, he did a tremendous amount in a compressed amount of time,” his father recalled. “He traveled to Asia at least a half dozen times -- China, Korea, all over… He'd go anywhere. He had a plane ticket, he had apps on language translations. ‘How are you going to..?’ ‘I got it dad.’” On an Instagram post from the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in China two weeks before he died, Harrison combined two quotes generally attributed, separately, to Saint Augustine and the prophet Mohammed: “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled. Because the World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” Michael immediately got on a plane to return from London. His other two kids, Chase, who was 16 at the time, and Mackenna, who was 13, were on spring break with their mother Wendy in the Cayman Islands. “I had a long flight home to reflect on what was going on,” Greenberg said. “I was in shock. I think if I had to say what concerned me the most, it was worrying about his mother, and his siblings. Because he's gone, so he's pain free, but if you step back, you can imagine all the pain that was going to happen. I was 35,000 feet up in the sky knowing what I was going to encounter at home.” Home was Manhattan Beach, the town Greenberg had adopted as his hometown 25 years earlier — before he had kids, before Skechers became the third largest shoe company in America, when he was 25 years old and just beginning to make his mark on the world. He’d moved around as a kid, from Boston to Florida and finally to the Valley to join his own father, Robert, with whom he helped build the shoe company LA Gear, and then Skechers out its ashes. Robert, a joyously imaginative serial entrepreneur who’d launched a chain of hair salons, a wig company, and a roller skate company before entering the shoe industry, had always referred to Skechers as “a nice family business,” even as it became a billion dollar, international enterprise. He and most of his six kids lived in the Valley. Michael woke up one morning in his home in January 18, 2018 • Easy Reader / Beach magazine 13