George was the consummate artist. Every aspect of his life was subsumed in his art message. Whether making a film, drawing, poem ,organizing an uprising, bringing art materials to Nicaragua, starting a teacher’s union, running for selectman in Bethlehem, NH of fighting the sludge landfill, he used his unique comic sensibilities with no holds barred. As a result, he made scores of friends who admired his various commitments and uncompromising humor while infuriating others clinging to their opposing views.
The last years of life were not easy. Legally blind, he also had circulation issues requiring major surgery with nasty complications, he then fell and broke his pelvis and lost much of his mobility and required pain medication that brought on random bouts of cognitive impairment. Despite all this, more often than not he was mordantly humorous as only George could be. When hospitalized his charm and humor won the hearts of the caregivers.
After a number of hospital admissions it seemed that a nursing home would be needed yet he would not consider leaving the church/studio/home he so loved. Through the efforts of Mike Buckley, a second cousin who lived in southern NH and the close friends he had made in his years in Bethlehem, a team of helpers provided the home care he needed. When he needed even more care, His daughters Ingrid and Aune moved in to provide fulltime assistance.
In going through the church after his death and sorting a well ordered, voluminous, and compulsively organized stash of all of his work, records, correspondence, and early works, we uncovered just one book, a thin paperback on Magritte. George was proud to acknowledge that he had never read a book and yet had achieved a Doctor of Education degree from Columbia University. Betty Johnson, his first wife, says that he had read Camus, “The Stranger”. Back in his art school days. Give or take one book, George learned to live not from books but by living intensely and being selectively focused on every aspect of it.
He worked on his touchingly funny art constructs until the very end. In the spring of this year he worked up the graphic layout of the catalog of a show of his work in Jackson Michigan though he was not well enough to attend. In November, the Wren Gallery In Bethlehem has scheduled a show his work.
George never met a “last supper” that he didn’t like. His last version was completed for all but the label just before he died. The backdrop was a cheap reproduction of the Da Vinci painting with four plaster or plastic versions in various sizes and modifications. The work was to be titled, “Vote …seven to five.”
At a memorial gathering in Bethlehem on Sunday, Sept 21, from 11:00am to 5:00pm served to bring together the many longtime friends that George had made in his over 50 years of part time and permanent residence in the church, with his family members. It was clear that he was loved and appreciated for his creative talents, generous spirit, good humor and social responsiveness. Through-out the afternoon, 80 to 100 folks stopped by and celebrated a life well lived.
A similar gathering for friends in San Francisco will be announced for a date in Mid October