Tribute to our neighbor George

How does one pay tribute to a man who had such an impact on my life in such a short period of time? How does one take what he has learned from another individual and carry it forward to the next generation? Those are some of the questions I have been wrestling with over the recent weeks. This is all thanks to a man named George.

My wife, two daughters and I bought a house and moved to Bedford this past summer. We were encouraged by the sellers to, “get to know the man across the street.” Amidst the chaos of the move and transition we made it a priority to take their advice. We quickly meet our 94 year old neighbor George and from that moment our lives would be forever changed.

First impressions of George were that he was a friendly, but quiet man. Although in his mid-90s, he did not look a day over 75. His handshake was strong and memory sharp. If you asked George about himself he would be adamant that he was nothing special, but that could not be further from the truth. George is a member of America’s Greatest Generation. As my family got to know him we experienced this “greatness” firsthand. We were blessed to have many interactions with George and learned so much from this man. We learned, not because he was trying to teach us, but because of who he was. Here are some of our memories and what we learned from this great man:

George was Humble: There is no doubt he accomplished great things in his life. He was a World War II veteran serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He fought throughout Africa and Europe. He had a successful business career in manufacturing which culminated with him becoming a vice president for Velcro. Simply put, George was an American hero. As he periodically shared these stories with me and my wife, he always was overcome with humility. While we were in awe, he just had the perspective that he was “just doing his job.”

George was Patriotic: George loved our country. His military service spoke volumes to this point, but his patriotism did not end with the war. He stayed engaged in the current state of our nation. We spoke on election night in November after he returned from the voting booth. His longing to see our country thrive was apparent. The center-piece of his front yard is a tall flag pole flying the stars-and-stripes. He respected the flag, what it stands for and took pride in flying it.

George was a Family Man: We met a few members of the family when they would come to visit and heard stories of others. George was clearly the patriarch. His wife passed away several years ago, but they had been married over 60 years. He spoke of her (Irene) frequently and we know he still loved her dearly. George also had several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He kept track of their birthdays and made sure to send each one a card.

George was Loyal: George visited the nursing home where his wife passed each and every week. He met with the residents and served them. Every Friday he would bring a box of ice cream sandwiches to share. Last fall I caught him leaving the neighborhood early in the morning. George was volunteering to help the nursing home bring the residents to the Deerfield Fair. He spent the entire day pushing wheel chairs around the hilly fairgrounds. Fit as a fiddle at 94 with most of the nursing home residents being younger than him.

George was a Generous Neighbor: He was quick to open his doors to help out our family. If we needed to borrow a tool from his garage, it was no problem. There was more than one occasion that I needed to utilize his wheel barrel for a quick yard project. George also insisted on sharing his pool with us. We had an open invitation anytime we wanted to go for a swim.

George was Industrious: George was a hard worker. He especially loved his yard work. Maintaining his pool was a favorite past time. In the fall he took care of all the leaves. One day I came home from work to see a large tree had been removed from his front yard. Did he hire someone to cut it down? Of course not. George cut it down himself with a chainsaw. I always insisted on helping with his projects, but he declined. I thought the cold winter might change his mind. After the first significant snow-storm of the season I shoveled his driveway. The next day he thanked me, but it was immediately followed by orders “not to make a habit of that.” My only reply was, “yes sir.”

George passed away in January. America lost one of its finest. New Hampshire said farewell to a legend. My family said goodbye to a dear friend. The seven months we were neighbors with George will leave a lasting imprint on my family. It was an honor, privilege and blessing to get to know this man from the Greatest Generation. God put this man in our lives for a reason. We learned so much from George in a short period of time. My wife and I will cherish the memories, honor his legacy and apply what we learned so we can pass it on to the next generation.

Joshua Solloway,