Larger Than Life
George was born in the Maternity Ward of the Grace Hospital in Calgary. We were renting a pad in an illegal four plex in Bowness and when Mavis’ water broke in the middle of the night; our friend, Steve Cheshire, took us to the hospital so I wouldn’t have to put Mavis on my bicycle handlebars. George was a miracle baby. Our plans to work and travel and ‘have kids at some point’ went out the window when Mavis discovered she was pregnant shortly after our wedding and honeymoon in Scotland. Thank goodness.
In a little kid-holder backpack, George got a bicycle ride around Bowness Park every day. We survived those years largely on Rocky Mountain Whitefish that I caught in the Bow River; George loved to come along. One day, I cast my line, looked up and there was George face-down in an eddy. I fished him out before the current took him away and he immediately continued running round on the bank.
Incredibly, George survived his childhood. On his first birthday, Mavis took him out to Saskatoon to visit her Mom. George took his first steps, putting both hands across his eyes and running across the room. Other childhood memories that will be fondly remembered: after a supper with our friends, Dave and Joan, it was, “Thanks for the meat!“ (so much better than whitefish…) and then at another visit to see his grandparents in Medicine Hat, he locked himself out of the back yard, and there was banging, “Opi door? Opi Door! Opi door dammit!”
With his brother Eric in tow, our recreational regime was always a walk and a swim. There were many camping trips, visits with his grandparents in the Caribou and annual summer holidays when my mum and dad came over from England. He was introduced to soccer and cricket by our neighbour, Ralph, in Devon, England. He loved Beavers and Cubs, athletics, building snow forts and tying his brother to the outside laundry line post. We went to St. Mary the Virgin Anglican Church where he and Eric would play with the McElravy sisters, Kate and Sarah.
As a young man, he worked summer holidays at the Keswick-on-Derwentwater Launch Company in the English Lake District, as has his father and his brother. He started dating Kate after graduating high school and took a fine arts degree at the University of Lethbridge.
The neuropathy kicked in and was fought with a fortitude that amazed us. Kate and George married 12th April 2003 at the Church of Ascension in Coaldale with a short honeymoon in Radium Hot Springs, B.C., where his buddies carried him down to the Lussier Hot Springs. A trip to the Mayo Clinic (Minnesota) in June gave us an official diagnosis of CIDP (Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyneuropathy). Later that year, George and Kate held a more formal wedding celebration 25th October at St. Augustine’s Anglican Church in Lethbridge.
It would be natural with severe disability to settle close to family in Lethbridge, so George announced to Kate that he was moving to Calgary and would she join him? The George and Kate bond is the strongest I have ever seen. They did everything together.
George reinvented himself as an engineering draftsman and worked for an innovative medical engineering firm, Tenet Medical Engineering Inc. (2005 – 2014). George was a great strategic thinker and was given considerable latitude to help the company work through issues, document and improve control procedures, make processes more efficient and problem-solve. One of the greatest tributes from his co-workers at Tenet was a go-kart they had built from scratch to surprise George. In 2014, he moved to Stantec Consulting Ltd., working as an electrical engineering draftsman. He also enjoyed his volunteer work with the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation, a non-profit organization that recognizes and encourages innovation in Canada. In his last year of volunteering, the first and second place awards were identified by George.
George and Kate were an indomitable team and had an extraordinary life together. They built a wheelchair-accessible house in Calgary. George was an avid tropical fish hobbyist, and a skilled stained glass artisan. He loved his dogs, Casey and Lexa, and was an amazing dog trainer. They had numerous camping trips in Alberta, B.C., and Montana. They travelled to many places, including: Las Vegas,
New York, the Caribbean and England. Their most exotic trip was to the Middle East where they stayed at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, U.A.E., cruising through the Red Sea, stops in Egypt, experiencing the Suez Canal and ending in Spain. In fact, their last trip was to middle-America to catch a Phil Collins concert last October.
For years, the family had talked about having a base in the Kootenay valley, and they made it happen. They acquired a condo in Radium Hot Springs, B.C., which they loved and provided a regular week-end and holiday refuge and respite. George took huge delight in the outdoors. His special joys were sitting lakeside at Lake Lillian, while Kate and the nieces rowed and paddle-boarded, getting thrown into the condo’s pool by his brother to swim with his beloved nieces, Eliza, Vanessa and Nora.
The things that most inspired about George were fourfold:
George really was the best of us. Given little, physically, to work with, he refused to be bound by his condition. He just got on with it. And at the end when the disease was not to be stopped, George and Kate took control, the family stepped in and he exited this world his way. George was the bravest and most extraordinary person we have ever known and the most amazing gift any parents could ever have.
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