SAN FRANCISCO, CA. – Benjamin Greenfield saw more adventure in his 29 years than many people do in their whole lives.
Greenfield was an extreme rock climber and back-country snowboarder who tackled mountains all over the world, from Mont Blanc in the French Alps to the Armadillo at Mount Katahdin and Tuckerman’s Ravine on Mount Washington.
He also had a passion for cooking and worked a stint at Fore Street in Portland. He had a degree in philosophy and a keen sense for judo.
On top of all that, Mr. Greenfield was regarded as brilliant when it came to computers and information security.
In 2011, he landed his dream job at Google Inc. in California as a security engineer. A few months after settling in San Francisco, he was diagnosed with a rare and extremely aggressive blood disorder.
He died on Monday, surrounded by his family.
“He was a true Renaissance man,” said his father, Paul Greenfield, of East Hampton, N.Y. “He was on top of the world and I couldn’t be more happier for him. … It was the top of the mountain for him professionally.
“I’m happy and proud that he was able to achieve as much as he did in the time that he had.”
Mr. Greenfield grew up in South Orange, N.J., the youngest of three children.
As a kid, he took an interest in video games and computer technology. By age 14, he built his first computer. He built many others after that.
In 2004, Mr. Greenfield graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in philosophy. He then switched gears and moved to Bethel to teach snowboarding at Sunday River.
Soon after that, he moved to Portland to start his career in information security.
He worked for Maine Medical Partners. He was later hired as a subcontractor for the Navy doing information security work at Bath Iron Works.
While still in his early 20s, Mr. Greenfield was given significant security clearances and achieved a CISSP — Certified Informational Systems Security Professional – designation.
“He was just a kid and he loved it,” said his brother Zachary Greenfield, of Cape Elizabeth. “He loved the intellectual challenge. He loved being right on the cutting edge of technology.”
Mr. Greenfield also worked at Sage Data Security in South Portland as a security analyst. He advised banks, hospitals and other businesses how to protect their vital data and information systems.
In 2011 — with mixed emotions — Mr. Greenfield accepted a highly coveted position at Google Inc. as a security engineer. Three months later, he was diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, or ITP. In the months he battled his illness, he excelled at work and earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues.
His lifelong friend, Ari Steinberg, former director of engineering at Facebook, said Mr. Greenfield loved his work at Google.
Steinberg said he and Mr. Greenfield went to the same South Orange, N.J., elementary school and were great friends in middle school and high school. They reconnected after Mr. Greenfield moved to San Francisco. Steinberg noted the day he met up with Mr. Greenfield after he was diagnosed.
“In telling me what he was going through, he was able to crack jokes and still have a sense of humor,” Steinberg said. “He realized his situation wasn’t good, but despite that, he would explain it with a positive attitude.”
This week, Mr. Greenfield’s friends expressed deep sadness over his death, but also gratitude for knowing a man who, they agree, had a profound impact on so many people in such a short time.
Gavin Engler, of Portland, who lived with Mr. Greenfield, said they rock climbed and snowboarded together for years.
“Benji definitely loved the outdoors,” Engler said. “I feel honored to have known him for as long as I did. He had a huge influence on my life.”
In the months before he died, Mr. Greenfield was promoted at work, developed new friendships, explored San Francisco in search of unusual foods, and continued climbing in the San Francisco Bay area.
“He was a massively smart kid, who didn’t know it,” said his brother Alexander Greenfield, of Medford, Mass. “When he came of age, it was mind blowing how much he knew.”
Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: