George – Presbyterian minister, sea captain, and civil rights activist – passed away peacefully surrounded by family in Mill Valley, California. He ever carried with him his Irish spirituality, zest for life, and ability to never pass up a good conversation. His warmth and sparkling blue eyes will be missed by so many of us. Please scroll to the box at the bottom of the comments and share your memories. We will treasure all of them. As you think of more, come back! Please check for our responses.
33 thoughts on “Memories of George”
George. You wonderful man. Central to some of the most wonderful sections of my (then our) life.
The beginning. May 2000. Finding George on Crewseekers as part of a life change – from business to sailor. Agreeing to sail with him on the most splendid ketch Aliento from the Hamptons to Cork in Ireland. He picks me up on Long Island, and the work starts. 5 weeks of the hardest work I have ever known. Dawn till Dusk. A list running into hundreds of items (is there a life raft?). One of my favorite moments (other than the nightly dinner and glass of wine at Betsy’s lovely house) was when a ?relative of his came to visit and noted that the entire hull needed to be refastened. This involved 1386 silicon bronze screws, three and a quarter inches in length, that needed to be applied to reattach the planking to the frame below the water line. George had faith in something that didn’t require such details – I was a little more practically minded.
The event. June – July 2000, and especially June 6 to Jun 9, somewhere off the Grand Banks.
“Get out of the Gulf Stream! You’re too small!” This warning, shouted over our shortband radio by a radio ham based in Minnesota who used to help boats route across the Atlantic, was the last thing we heard from the outside world before the storm hit.
There was no time to plan, to change course, or even to panic. One moment we were in calm waters, sailing peacefully across the Atlantic, the next we were caught up in the most terrifying experience of my life. A giant funnel of wind and water suddenly descended on us. The waves became towers of water higher than our 45ft mast.
For the first five days we had enjoyed idyllic sailing. Then, on 6 June, as we were tracking up the coast of New England, we received a severe weather report warning us that we were midway between a cyclone to the south and an anticyclone to the north. When a rare event like this happens, it is called a perfect storm. Like the meshing of two gigantic wheels, the combined winds and power at the point where these two met was devastating. And we were directly in its path.
So we changed course, we took ourselves off the Great Circle route that tracked north past Nova Scotia. We turned south for the Azores. And we made it – just. Other boats were less fortunate in that storm.
We spent an idyllic few weeks in the Azores, restocking, recrewing, and then we headed for Cork. A peaceful trip. Sailing past Fastnet rock I remember seeing Captain George with tears in his eyes – returning by sea on his beloved boat to his homeland.
Antigua Classic Week – May 2001. George wasn’t there, but his kindness and generosity were. He said to me as we parted in Cork the previous year – Giles, if you’d like to use Aliento any time, please, you’re always welcome. I took him up on his offer, and suggested that if by chance he happened to be in Antigua on his return trip, I would love the opportunity to race Aliento against the finest classic boats in the world. True to his word (as ever, as always), the following year Aliento was in English Harbor, and with many of my friends with me, we spent the most extraordinary week racing and sailing. We spent several days anchored off the beach at Barbuda. If you have never been there, please take the chance. Thank you George from all of us.
Long Island, 2002. Natalie and I got together in 2001. I wanted her to meet George and Betsy, they had been such an important part of my life even in the 2 years I had known them. So, on a visit to the US for Christmas and New year 2002, we drove out to Long Island and spend a glorious couple of days being looked after by George and Betsy. (Thank you Betsy, for all your hospitality over the years – you are a wonderful host, and great company.)
The Wedding, Suffolk, England, 2004. At our previous stay with George in 2002, he had said “if you two ever marry, please let me come and marry you”. Full of love, of energy, always. Again, we took him up on his offer. He flew to England. We married in a wood. A very ancient Celtic ceremony. He was perfect. Everyone loved him. My parents still talk about him. There was a bit in the legal part of the ceremony where – because of the rules – one couldn’t say “God”. George let us know that everytime he said “Dog” he really meant “God”. Hysterical. The word “Dog” randomly inserted into the humanist ceremony.
California, 2018. Having moved to the Virginia in 2017, we (Natalie and I, plus our now four boys Beowulf, Mercutio, Ulysses and Santiago) went exploring. And a key part of that was to explore and visit George – which we did. I have the photos – George surrounded by all the boys and me and Natalie. So happy. So wonderful. I love the man. Thank you George, thank you for everything from me and my family, and all those friends and family of mine that have enjoyed your company, your energy, and your generosity.
From Christina Crawford:
In the past several years and in the last few months particularly, thinking of you and George would bring a flood of sailing memories to mind. George on the Aliento! George in his element!
Numerous aspects of that trip were meaningful for me; having the chance to participate in something that meant so much to him and shaped him as a person was a real gift. Snapshot memories of him talking with Grandad or Dad stick with me, too. The ease and kindness with which he spoke to people were on display whenever we gathered as a family.
He will be dearly missed. I’m smiling as I think of Dad and George reunited in heaven with the Lord, no doubt having plenty of ‘comment and consultation’ as they sail the seas and plant trees.
From Beth Crawford Fonfara:
My memories of George and my dad are often tied together, as so many of the visits were when my dad brought us to NY, or when we celebrated Dadfest. I remember time spent on the boat, time sitting on the back deck as the sun went down and dinner was being prepared inside your home, and time laughing. So much love and laughter wherever George went. So much love between the two of you, it was palpable even to a pre-teen like me. I will always hold his memories dear.
From Carol N.:
Every time I smash a couple of garlic heads with the flat of my big chef’s knife – which I just did – the same sweet memory comes to mind:
In the kitchen in Springs, George exclaiming over the wonderfulness of the new garlic peeler you’d just gotten – a rubber cylinder into which one put the garlic cloves, and then just roll it back and forth on the counter a time or two, and the skins come right off – like magic!
Isn’t that just one of the Georgest things ever? Bringing such celebration to a “garlic peeler” – AND sharing his own wonder and delight at being able to competently interact with an actual kitchen implement…
I really do think of that every single time. And it always makes me smile.
From Len Davenport:
I truly wished I could have met you and George earlier and known you both better. As an atheist from my tween years, I have often said I have known only half a dozen ’spiritual’ religious people (one also an atheist) and from the start, both of you were, I think, in that category. There is a calmness and unity with the universe that you seemed to have that has been my measure. I may not live up to it, but I recognize it.
From Carol Saysette:
When my husband and I moved into The Redwoods three and a half years ago, we joined a group called “Celtic Spirituality,” which was inspired by George, John Boettiger, and Gerda Lund, who had all recently attended a workshop lead by The Rev. John Philip Newell. It was a wonderful group, and George’s offerings and thoughts were often profound. As a clergy person myself, I felt grounded and at home at The Redwoods because of that group. I will never forget him.
More from Carol (responding to this: https://bit.ly/34Lnqlh):
What a WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL poem, and beautiful pictures…
I just exploded in tears when I first read it, and again just now… (A milder “explosion,” but tears…) This is SO how George would wish to be thought of – always.
“And one clear call for me!”
For some reason, I looked up the etymology of “obituary.” It’s from the Latin, obitus, “a departure, a going to meet, an encounter.” And from the related verb, obire, which means “to go toward, to meet.” So unlike what I’d always thought an obituary was – more of a summary, or a record of someone’s life, as if all were completed. So, in fact, it’s exactly what the poem talks about… I’m sure George would approve.
I’m also thinking about the skillful Pilot Boats, who escort large vessels safely in and out of harbors. Don’t know if that’s the “Pilot” referred to in the poem, but I like the thought of a great vessel being met, and led, by such a Pilot, to “safe harbor.” And, Lord knows, George was always a “large vessel,” in every respect! And I think you were his beloved “Pilot,” on much of this earthly journey – “corralling” being a sort of “piloting,” IMO.
I was Blessed to have worked with George for the past 3 years as an Independent Caregiver at the Redwoods where he lived his final years. Although George preferred to introduce me as his Girl Friday, him being far too independent to have a Caregiver.
George was very involved in the Redwoods community, teaching Spirituality Classes, Social Justice Education, bringing in Magnificent Speakers and Musicians to share with his community.
He was well Loved and Respected by so many. Throughout the chaos of Covid in which most spend the majority of days in their room, residents, Redwoods employees, other caregivers would often ask about him, wanting me to pass on their hellos, their Love.
George Loved his apartment. What a majestic view he had of Mt. Tam as he sat in his Captains chair. When not engaged in sharing his utmost important political view of the day, or raving about his Beloved Betsy and his family, and his cherished friends, or sharing stories of early days of Manhattan and Long Island, or sailing stories, he would be gazing for long periods of time at his precious Mt Tam, so deep in thought.
Another view George had from his second floor apartment was an outside path that many of the Redwoods employees used to go to and fro between buildings. They used this outdoor path more often since the start of Covid, lessening the indoor traffic. George would watch in admiration, pointing out many of his friends, telling me how each worker has shown up for him, for the community, so often going out of their way to make a difference. George Saw people, the Goodness in them and they felt that.
Two years ago, my son and I took part in a Social Justice school trip to Selma, Alabama as well as visiting museums and Civil Rights monuments throughout the South, which was a life changer for us. George was so thrilled that this was happening, that children are finally being taught the truth about our American History. George wanted to take part in this, maybe speaking at middle schools about his own trip to Selma where he marched with Martin Luther King and other Civil Rights leaders seeking Justice for all. He spoke of the importance of learning these truths, of the importance of Civil Rights education being a part of all middle schools curriculum.
During his last month as mind and body were very noticeably weakening,a nurses assistant shared with George that after Covid is no longer a threat, she was looking forward to finally marrying the man that she has Loved for many years and having her children baptized within the same ceremony, stating that this could be 2 years down the road. George was exuberant!! Mind and energy flowing back, that sparkle in his eyes, making plans to baptize the children, to marry the couple, helping her find a venue, connections. After she left, he asked me to please up the physical and voice exercises so that he could have his strong voice to marry them and Bless the children.
Earlier this year I started assisting with Georges physical exercises, walking down the halls and vocal exercises. These were some of my favorite times. He would often go above and beyond with his exercises. If he were to do a 10 count, he would do 15, or throw in some fancy dance kick (while lying flat) for an added laugh. He wanted to push himself on those walks to become strong enough to give up his walker and return to his cane. And then came the shower days. He would belt out songs during every shower, tossing in a dry joke or two, always making for quite the good belly laugh. He passionately sang Oh What a Beautiful morning during his last shower. Followed by the laughter from “The Shadow” radio program.
The last couple days of George’s life, I was calling on Angels to be with him, praying for a calm, peaceful transition, that he be surrounded by Love and Light. As I sat with his body the morning after, I wondered if I had asked those Angels for some of the wrong things. Remembering well the drama and fanfare that George so Loved. When a grin appeared upon my aching heart, my mind was soon at ease, realizing that George and his new connections would surely take care of that as he sailed on to his next adventure.
Thank you for making me into the man I am today. I remember when I was younger on the Aliento, you would let me steer the boat. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal in your eyes, but to me it was nerve racking manning that yawl. I watched though as you looked at me with confidence, and it gave me confidence. Now that I’m in my 20’s, I find myself in situations similar to that on the boat. Situations where I’m nervous and just need that little push of confidence to get through. To give me that push, I think back to moments like that on the Aliento. Throughout my life I’ve watched you live life in such a big way and with such boldness, and I strive to do that everyday. This boldness wasn’t just your personality I believe, but also your belief in a power bigger than yourself. You had such a strong belief in God that I have inherited personally, and I think you really made me interested in learning and walking with Jesus. You showed me the ways a belief in God can enhance my life in a plethora of ways. You’ve contributed so much in molding my character, and for that I will forever mourn in the loss of you 🙁
From Diane Salerno:
From the time I met him during my first visit with David to East Hampton in 1999, my father-in-law, George, always greeted me with arms flung wide open for a sincere and loving hug. His unconditional acceptance and love of me as part of the Wilson family was a gift and a natural aspect of his generous spirit. Memories of sailing and swimming off the Aliento, making wonderful family meals together, meaningful conversations, and dinners at Devon (which George loved!) will be treasured. Before we ate, he almost always gave a prayer and I would get anxious about the food getting cold. Now I will miss his lengthy, heartfelt words around the table. I am thankful our children, Dylan and Daniella, were able to really know their Poppa. I think he helped shaped the beautiful people they will be in this world.
From John Boettiger:
The news of George’s death, despite premonitions of imminence, inevitably hits hard. I loved him as a dear friend and companion — not quite of the sailing sort, nor for long at the Community Church in Mill Valley, but in the richness of shared conversation and through his participation in diverse groups concerned with the Spirit, especially our moving weekend and subsequent visit here with John Philip Newell, who continues to deeply affect my own development — and, as well, our co-founding and co-leading of a group at The Redwoods on Celtic Spirituality. He was so very proud of your Soul of the Earth, news of which I continue to share far and wide among friends and family. Pictures of him aboard the Aliento convey so beautifully what you say (equally true from my memories), “He wasn’t hard to meet! He was the most exuberant human being I’ve ever come across.” I’m so grateful for his companionship, which continues in memory. I’ve reread Tennyson’s “Crossing the Bar” several times as news of George’s departure has percolated in these precincts, with so many fine memories, such affection and regard through the halls of The Redwoods. He chose the right poem for his last adventure among us and ours with him. I can’t imagine that his hope from Tennyson’s last lines failed of realization. If anyone crossed the bar and saw his Pilot face to face, George did, exuberantly.
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
With my love, to him, to you, for all that you shared,
The poem is a perfect elegy for George! And the photos perfect accompaniments — to the poem, and to George’s wonderful personality. We loved him dearly, and will miss him dearly.
[The poem is here: https://bit.ly/34Lnqlh%5D
From Joe Crawford:
Aunt Betsey, I’m so sorry for your loss of George. He was a good man. He always made others feel good, and valued, and comfortable around him. I look back so fondly on the times we’d visit your house on Long Island and listen to stories he’d tell. 2020 has been a year of great loss of good people. I hope for peace and comfort for you and look forward to seeing you whenever that time comes.
I knew George mostly from his ministry. My wife and I approached him in Springs about baptism for our children. I was rebounding from adolescent distancing from religion and he spent more time than he wanted, I am sure, explaining what “fear” of the Lord meant in the service. He was the best possible ambassador for the Springs Community Church.
I most remember his effect on my mother, Mary Louise Dodge, who delighted in the surge of activity and joy he brought to her beloved church. Both her letters and phone calls were filled with the vibrancy of the church at that time and the personal warmth she felt around him. I think of him every time I drive near Neck Path and Old Stone Highway. I wish I had known him better. I hope the joy he brought others provides you some comfort at this time.
Sending love & blessings to you Betsey, and all of the family. I last spoke to George maybe less than a year ago. He called on me from time to time to check on Aliento and give me advice and ideas for her. We had lovely conversations. He loved that boat! I feel that his spirit as her captain will live on indefinitely. I am so fortunate to have met George and known him for a short time. His enthusiasm and joy for life was beautiful and empowering.
May the seas be calm for the rest of his voyage! I had a video clip of him saying a wonderful prayer about Granddad in September 2016, and I posted it here – https://youtu.be/qK7GekjHwdo
I have many memories of him as a kind, sweet, and also very funny and loving man. It was wonderful to know him!
Just read in The Star of George’s passing. Such a vital friendly enthusiastic man, it’s hard to believe he’s gone. We know he had suffered in the last few years and we hope there is comfort in knowing that he is now
We went on one of his Aliento evening tours of Gardiner’s Bay (a friend’s birthday celebration) and it was tremendous, his jolly adept captaining added to the fun. Also, we remember a wonderful night on the boat watching fireworks and remember a not so fun trip out to the boat in a dingy in rough waters! But George was confident and helped ease the way.
Sending you and Luke healing thoughts and health and sanity in these difficult times,
Mary & Philip
George my Father
Being George’s one and only daughter, I’ve had the past week to reflect on how I feel about the loss of my father. I am grateful for the many years I had with him. From an early age, I clearly remember sailing, long before his beloved Aliento. My Mother and Dad would pack up the kids in our station wagon and down to the dock we would go. The first boat I was introduced to at birth was named the “Southern Cross”. We then used the boat named “Tasha” to sail from San Pedro, California to Catalina Island or to Cove X part of the Channel Islands.
I didn’t do the long voyages with my father as my brothers did but I was fortunate enough to be a “meet you there” kind of daughter, which suited me well. We sailed to the Hawaiian Islands and the Caribbean together and had many meals under the stars, always with great conversation. The numerous people we encountered along the way was a story in itself.
Moving from California to New York in the mid-’90s, I was fortunate to be able to stay with Betsey and Dad for a little over a year in their lovely home on the water. It gave me more insight into my father because we had not lived full time together since I was 12 years old. It was nice to have the time getting to know him better while I was an adult. However, it wasn’t until I became a mother that I would come to realize how significant a grandparent would be in my children’s lives. The many baseball games he attended to cheer on his grandson, watching his granddaughter’s music recitals/plays, or Dad just telling a story by the crackling fire. Our memories are abundant. Prior to my father settling in Mill Valley, we were lucky enough to have him come and stay with us for two months in Southampton. He was very frail when he arrived and we were uncertain of his life expectancy. During that time, Tony (my husband) took him to many doctor’s appointments and would slip him a hot dog occasionally here and there which, as we all know, isn’t the best diet, nevertheless, he did enjoy those dogs. He began to gain some weight, and had many more years of memories to come.
In 2015, our family took a trip to Ireland to see our relatives. Traveling to see Florence, his first cousin in Dun Laoghaire, to Co. Leitrim and Co. Cavan to see other cousins. He always yearned to be near his Irish roots. This past Sunday, Betsey, my brother Mark, Tony, and I cleared out the final photos and material reminiscent of his life in his dwelling for the past 7 years. We then went to a little restaurant on Miller Avenue that we had been to several times with him throughout the years and had our last supper with our Dad. For the past 45 years I recall him telling my brothers and I “this will be the last supper together.” I felt his presence was with us on this beautiful autumn day having one final nosh with us. None of us are perfect. With that said, George was my Dad which perfectly suited me. I will always hold him dear to my heart and his spirit will live on through his grandchildren and the memories they will share with their children.
Rest in Peace Papa George
Despite the prohibition on “sadness of farewell,” there has been a great dark hole ever since knowing of George’s leaving. It seems the ability for sadness grows with age, the thought of never renewing our vows with George at the helm, never listening to ‘Amazing Grace’ from the Clearwater, and on… however, it has been ballasted this past week with jaunty memories of the wonder moments — drifting about on Aliento over Gardiner’s Bay; getting married on its deck in the freezing weather; Christmas at Springs-Fireplace Road overlooking the Accabonac; coffee and delicacies from the Springs General Store retrieved by George on an early Sunday morning; great conversation and laughs. They will remain.
And, of course, yes, the challenge Carol observed — the dishwasher and other household mysteries. Never to be forgotten — with great smiles. 🙂
With love, Karen & Mike
A beautiful tribute Shayron.
A story well told
….. your cousin
Dear Betsy: I met you once or twice when George introduced us in the Redwoods lobby. I had always admired the exquisite photography you shared with the world on your “Soul of the Earth” releases sharing the wonders and beauty of the natural world. I knew George Wilson quite well. He was a good friend whose company I often enjoyed because we had so much in common. More recently I discovered he had become somewhat reticent and so I did not approach him as much when I would see him in the dining room, which would usually leave me a little disappointed. I had always known him to be vital and vibrant and admired his versatility that few men had – a man of the frock: a Presbyterian minister as well as an accomplished sailor. In the isolation of these days, I often thought of him and then to my utter surprise I was passing by the notice board on the first floor and spotted his obituary. As you eloquently put it, in the words of Tennyson, he had crossed the bar. I’ll always remember my good friend and buddy, George. May his soul rest in peace!
I am so sorry to learn of the loss of your beloved partner. You won’t believe this, but just yesterday I was thinking about both of you and remembering the time George took all your friends for a sail on the Aliento. I wondered about George and how his health was. Now today I get this news. What an extraordinary life he had, sailing all over the world with his sons. I was amazed when I read the obit in the Star! I hope you find peace in knowing he lived out so many of his dreams!
From Guy Counsell:
I am writing to express my sadness at hearing the news of George’s passing.
I don’t know how to begin…except to say he was indeed a wonderful character of hope, goodwill, patience and contentment.
Of course your observation that he was a ‘ pathological optimist’ is so utterly correct… infuriatingly so…but what a wonderful trait that was.
I wish I were able to observe his message of hope, love, and goodwill as much as he did.
I’m sad for myself that we hadn’t spoken recently… I was wondering how appalled he might have been over the social, political scene in the U.S.
I loved his message on his machine ‘ we are on the way’ … I don’t know, a touch of serenity perhaps?
Also the ‘Captain George’ posts…keeping in touch, seeking relationship, staying informed…in such a sweet way.
He was a man of his time, much needed now. Seeing, perhaps, all his work, thoughts, and hopes going up in smoke.
Yes indeed…he never gave up…seeing through many of his dreams, his trip to Ireland, his many adventures with you…engaged, hopefully, until the end.
My sincere apologies for not staying in touch… I can never manage my relations well.
I know too these times bring such mixed emotions…but undoubtedly his loss must be a huge one.
I was trying to think of a word that described George… irrepressible, perhaps, I don’t know if ineffable applies, but it seems so when searching for a mere single word to describe him.
So thank you for all the times we spent together, the meals we all shared…his lovely blessings before dining…something I will remember always. That kind of ritual is sadly fading away it seems.
So thank you Betsy… my sincere condolences…
He is indeed ‘on his way’ undoubtedly in his heaven.
“Aliento! Aliento! Aliento!” My kids would scream as they saw George approaching. My family and I still spend summers sitting on the Sammy beach side of the inlet. In the past, we would wait for George to pass, and George would reliably slow and shout a greeting, even with a boat full of tourists. Great summer memories.
I remember George working with Rev. Rob Stuart and later Rev David Jones of Amagansett Presbyterian. Wedding, funerals and lots of counseling at Church dinners during all the local Presbyterian Churches. George had a strong influence on many in the area.
Later I would meet George at East Hampton Family Medicine where I worked as a PA. Lively conversation, local Church news (Gossip), and plenty of jokes would ensue until Betsy got us oriented down to business. How I grinned when I saw George’s name on the schedule for that day!
George’s sense of adventure and above all his resilience are his strong points I will remember.
Thank you, Jerry! I love these memories, particularly the one from Sammy’s Beach. And I was still corraling George at doctors’ appointments until the very end.
My DearBets –
Captain Greybeard Loon…! To the capstan – and the pulpit – born, and God’s own breath (“Aliento”) he shall now eternally be.
(I think he would get a kick out of my rhapsodic rhetoric, something he was always so good at – whether expounding over the restoration of a church steeple, or the wonders of a splendid new garlic peeler that had just arrived – by magic! – on your kitchen counter in Springs.)
You were kind enough to remind me of something I wrote to you both after George officiated at Bruce’s and my wedding: “He was put on this earth to celebrate life and to bring life to celebrations.” Sometimes his “celebrating” included a surprising element; I swear he began our backyard wedding rites with, “Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here today to join this Democrat and this Republican…” as, facing him, I frantically shook my head, silently mouthing, “No, George, NO…!!” It’s one of my favorite memories of that day.
I can’t remember George EVER entering a room, or a conversation, or a situation of any sort without “all canvas unfurled.” Whatever wonderful thing just happened, or might be about to happen, he brought it in its maximum fullness. He really did believe that life was astonishingly, and sacredly, and always, filled with endless wonders.
Loading a dishwasher may be the sole mystery he never fully fathomed, appreciated, or mastered… 🙂
There will always be a garden; there will always be a horizon – an open road, a boundless sea, a vast universe, and love without limit.
Thank you, dear friend. This is so beautiful…and made me laugh out loud.
A remarkable charismatic man radiating goodness, humor and Compassion. We met in East Hampton,
talked of sailing, theology, the Irish saving civilization, ( the book was popular then and I’m a calligrapher)
and how fortunate he felt for your loving partnership.
I recall George leading a cooking class! How that came to be, I do not recall.
Happy to hear that you took to the road, explored so many places (in place and mind) and have the gift of Love, light and laughter with George.
I returned to California coast (Petaluma) in 2008; I so wish I’d known you were both nearby … Namaste.
Thank you, Elaine. What a lovely remembrance. Although I have to say I’m struggling to get my head around George leading a cooking class! We did have a wonderful time on the road. And I’m still in Marin!
From Harvey Cox:
It is hard to believe he is gone. George and I have been friends for almost fifty years. We had some wonderful, even rollicking times together. He was with my family and me when we got into a six-car pile up on the way to the Cape. We worked together on the Bonhoeffer film (never made). We sailed together (but never to Europe). I could go on and on.
I will not say “I share your pain.” Because I cannot, pain is so personal. But I hug you over three thousand miles. He was a GOOD MAN.
From Dan Seidman:
George was always such an enthusiastic and passionate person. He cared about his causes and he cared about his people. George knew how to be a good friend, a real friend: he listened, and wanted to know what was going on, and tried to help in any way he could.
He had a positive faith based on love of life and playfulness. George wasn’t one for fire and brimstone. He was a natural-born free spirit. A minister with a fifty-foot sailboat and a big heart.
George could be loose as a goose; his openness to life often amazed me. I can’t ever remember running out of things to talk about with George! It’s hard to believe I won’t hear him tell his stories and his yarns. His father going up the six flights with ice only to find out he had lost his customer who had bought a refrigerator. His mother’s ability to rent to boarders and then have the vision to buy property out in East Hampton. Scaring Dr. Einstein at Princeton by jumping out in front of him to tell him Happy Birthday and that they both shared a birthday! No matter how many times I may have heard these stories, I miss them already.
From Jackie Ryan:
Aw. I’m so sad to read that he passed. We did have a good conversation a few weeks ago.
He was so concerned about the way things were going with our political situation.
He was so concerned about more rioting.
But also, he would talk about happy things.
He was very proud of your work.
And he would always say what a wonderful person you are.
And he was so proud of his beautiful family.
He loved to talk about his mother.
I feel so very privileged to have met dear George.
He brought a great amount of light to my life also.
You know because my father had died about a year before and I miss my dad so much.
So he asked me about dad a lot and I talked about him.
I found him to be a very very positive person.
Always trying to look on the bright side.
I’ll never forget the first time I met him when I sang at the church and he came up and he was just so glowing about the music.
He said “you brought God into this room!“ in his George-like enthusiastic way! oh my!
I’ve never had anyone be so expressive in that way and it touched me greatly.
He always kept his spirits up despite how weak he was getting.
He really wanted to get to 90.
But he definitely was getting much weaker.
And to not be able to talk easily must’ve been very hard for him. Because he so loved to talk.
John and I send you our deepest condolences.
John thought he was so great and he loved hearing about my conversations with him.
I guess we all know he’s in a much better place. He’s there in all the beautiful flowers that you take photos of. He’s there in everything good.
I’m so glad that the family could be there with him in the end. He never stopped talking about the last time they all came over on his birthday last year.
I’ll always miss him. He taught me the word Anam Cara.
From Jim Henry:
I had spoken to him a week ago, and I think we both sensed it was the last call. He was like the older brother I never had — full of Irish mirth, Bonhoeffer resolve, a devilish capacity to get into scrapes, the precious quality of caring about people as individuals in the rough, uncut, which is always challenging.
He told me a story about a chance meeting in East Hampton with the elderly, aristocratic “Lion” Gardiner, lord and heir to Gardiner’s Island, a strange independent entity not far off the coast of Long Island. Affable George told Mr. Gardiner that he often sailed out by the island, and really wanted to ask permission to land, explore, and pay Gardiner a visit. The snooty elder responded in his best high-toned midAtlantic accent to the Irish-American upstart: “Oh, I’m sorry, but I just don’t think you’d FIT IN.”
I think of George Wilson as a man’s man, courageous and determined, but also as solid a being in terms of basic decency and generosity as you could possibly wish for. I learned much from him just by watching. His family is very lucky to have had him around for so long.