2009-01-02 / Community

Rockaway Vet Gives Back To VA Hospital

Greenstein Donates His Art To Brooklyn Facility

Mike Greenstein, left, with VA Harbor Healthcare System Director John Donnellan. Mike Greenstein, left, with VA Harbor Healthcare System Director John Donnellan. Rockaway resident Mike Greenstein has been favored with a long and productive life.

Greenstein, a World War II veteran, who was once called "the strongest man in the Army Air Force," recently donated a painting that he had done specifically for the Brooklyn Campus of the VA New York Harbor Healthcare System.

The painting of the New York Skyline is the second that Greenstein, who took up paining late in life, had donated to the hospital, because, he says, "the care I receive there is exceptional."

Morris "Mike" Greenstein served in the AAF from 1942 to 1946. During that time, he held four junior world records in strength and once lifted 586 pounds with his teeth. He is also credited with bending a one-inch piece of iron across the bridge of his nose.

Strength was in Greenstein's genes. His father, Joseph Greenstein, who came to the United States from Suvalk, Poland in 1911, worked in vaudeville as "The Mighty Atom," and was one of the premier strongmen of his day.

The art piece donated by Greenstein now hangs in the emergency department waiting room. The art piece donated by Greenstein now hangs in the emergency department waiting room. Greenstein says that his father owned a gas station in Texas in 1927, when the great illusionist, Houdini, stopped at the station with a flat tire.

The story goes that Greenstein's father picked up the car with Houdini still inside without using a jack and took the tire off the car.

Houdini, amazed, offered the older Greenstein a job working for him in New York City.

The Mighty Atom became known as the "Strongest Man On Earth."

Mike Greenstein learned to work with aviation motors at a New York trade school.

When the war came, he was quickly made an instructor at the AAF ground school in North Carolina.

After the war, Greenstein went to work locally as a mechanic for Trans World Airlines. He remained with TWA for 17 years and then switched gears to become a wedding photographer. Greenstein came to Rockaway more than a decade ago.

He took up painting and has become a prominent local artist. His latest painting, which was donated to the VA hospital, shows the city's skyline with the World Trade Center missing, but outlined, to show that "they are still there in spirit."

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