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Thursday, February 1, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Luck singled out Jim Greenway

Seattle Times staff reporter

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It would be hard to beat Jim Greenway's best-known story.

As a 50-year-old active-duty Army Reserve officer, he was flying to New York on a United Air Lines DC-6 commercial flight, dozing with a loose seat belt, when the emergency hatch beside his seat flew off and he found himself partly dangling outside the plane at 13,000 feet over Indiana.

The way Mr. Greenway recounted it, he got a hand back inside the plane, and other passengers grabbed an arm and a leg and pulled him in.

The ordeal, on Oct. 2, 1954, left him with terrible bruises and shredded clothing. But it made a great story, one that made newspapers everywhere.

James Greenway Sr., who died in Seattle on Jan. 21 at age 96, considered himself one of the luckiest men alive, said his son, Robert, of Port Townsend. Of the airplane incident, Robert Greenway said, "He wasn't going to tell anybody, but a reporter in the airport found out about it and it made world news, very much to my dad's chagrin."

Mr. Greenway's death, at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Beacon Hill, followed complications from a stroke in October.

He spent his boyhood in a logging camp on the Moyie River in the Idaho panhandle and in Eastern Washington. As a Washington State College student in the mid-1920s, he majored in dairy manufacturing, chemistry and bacteriology, and supported himself by working at the college's experimental dairy.

During Mr. Greenway's early career, he was superintendent of the Carnation Ice Cream plant in Seattle and later a plant manager for Carnation in Northern California. During World War II, his active duty included stints in India and southern China. After the war, he returned to Seattle and to Carnation's milk and ice-cream operation. He retired in 1972.

Mr. Greenway's wife of 60 years, Helen, died in 1987, and a daughter, Nancy Yerger, died in 1992. Besides Robert, he is survived by his son James Jr. of Kirkland, 12 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

A graveside service was held Saturday in Walla Walla. Remembrances may be made to Compassionate Action hospice workers through the Transitional Care Unit at the Veterans Affairs hospital, 1660 S. Columbian Way, Seattle, WA 98108. The Compassionate Action fund helps pay travel expenses for hospice volunteers who care for hospitalized veterans who have no families.

Remembrances may also be made to Seattle's Union Gospel Mission, P.O. Box 202, Seattle, WA 98111.

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