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SALTWATER PORTRAIT

Tom Greenwood: Special educator clowns around

Packers fan delights community as teacher, balloon artist
November 20, 2018

Tom Greenwood can be found at many community events in Lewes, whether it's pouring alcohol for R&L Liquors, or making balloon animals as Chuckles the clown. Many people recognize him, but they may not know he appeared seven times with Diana Ross and worked with Ron Howard.

Greenwood also has a special talent for making tiny hats for bald guys. “I worked for Rogaine and was hired for the national hair show,” he said.

Born in Wisconsin, he’s an avid Packers fan, but Wisconsin was not the only place he lived as a child. His dad was a traveling salesman; at different times he lived in Maryland and Missouri. Still, his favorite childhood memory was a circus parade in Milwaukee, with the tigers and elephants. For him it felt magical. "I never had seen something like that before,” he recalled.

Greenwood at that time did not realize that one day he would be a clown, and this memory would spark a passion. He loves kids, so for him, working in schools was enjoyable. In 1990, he became a special educator and began affecting the lives of many young children.  He found they affected him as well.

One kid in particular had special significance in Greenwood’s life, and he recently reunited with him. "Nate inspired me to be a special educator,” he said. Many teachers may not remember students 25 years later, but Greenwood is different. He truly cared and loved watching every student grow as a person.

Still, as passionate as he is about working with kids, ”I don’t want to live with them,” he said.

Greenwood has a word of advice for children. “Get someone to read to you. It’s kind of like a communion.”

Being a special educator is not the only way Greenwood has found to empower young people. He also plays the role of Chuckles the clown, well known to many people around the Cape community.

Some people may ask how one becomes a clown, a role Greenwood says he came to by accident. Ever since that day, it’s become a livelihood and a passion. Chuckles is great at making balloon animals and entertaining kids of all ages. His favorite part of being Chuckles, he said, is teaching the kids how do a trick and empowering them to do them.

Greenwood came to Lewes in 2005. He originally came here to be a teacher in the Cape Henlopen School District. “I was not born in Delaware, and I had too much education, so I was too expensive,” he said. He ended up becoming a substitute in the Cape district, teaching special education. He also found his dream job in town.

R&L Liquors was the perfect fit.

“There was a job opening, and I needed a place to park my car in Lewes,” Greenwood said. He’s been working there for 12 years and enjoys every minute of it.

A year ago, Greenwood was diagnosed with cancer after discovering a bump on his neck. He was treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and he’s recently been in remission, thankful the cancer is gone.

Since being diagnosed, Greenwood has learned to live every day to the fullest. He’s made new relationships and strengthened old friendships. He now goes out almost every night with friends and enjoys every aspect of life. He said he feels happier and more grateful than ever before.

Greenwood said he works hard to contribute to the lives of the young people he works with, brightening their days by empowering them as he also makes the most of his own life.