September 27, 1918 ~ March 20, 2013
George had a fun-filled childhood like most children. Well, maybe not most children.... George had a dog named Buddy. Buddy went with George everywhere. If George went to the drugstore, Buddy went to the drugstore, or if George walked to the local swimming pool, so did Buddy. But one particular morning, George decided he was going to climb the water tower that was under construction down the street. It was at least 50 feet high with a platform at the top. George climbed to the top (knowing he would be skinned alive if caught) and looked back from where he came. To his surprise, half way up the ladder was BUDDY! George had to coax him up because by this time Buddy was frozen in fear. He finally got Buddy to the top, but there was no way Buddy would let George bring him down. So, George decided to go down alone and find help. With George leading the way, the fire department arrived and extended their ladders to save Buddy, while everyone in town looked on. Everyone knew who Buddy was because everyone knew George. In the end, Buddy made it down, everyone was thrilled and pictures documenting the event made the Sedalia Democrat newspaper that day. Not long afterwards Buddy, once again was following George unbeknownst to him. While walking down the sidewalk of downtown Sedalia, George heard a screeching of brakes and horns honking. He turned around and saw Buddy get hit by a car. George ran back, picked up Buddy and cradled him. Buddy looked up, saw George, whimpered and then died in his arms. The paper ran that story too. George told that story always with a tear in his eyes. On another occasion, George and his brother Emmet, who was also his best friend, decided that they were going exploring at one of his aunt's and uncle's home, which was outside of Sedalia, Missouri. This homestead, believed to be near Georgetown, had a fresh spring that ran through the property. In fact, the spring originated out of the ground on the home's property. The origination point had been enclosed by a "spring house," and because the water kept the enclosure naturally cool, the family used it to store milk and other foods that required refrigeration. George recalled that over the years, he and Emmet found many lead balls in the stone walls and the surrounding ground, left presumably from an old Civil War battle at that site. Still another time, George and Emmet were visiting this same aunt and uncle who also had an old junk tractor that was down rusting under a tree. They decided they were going to drive it, and somehow Emmet was able to get it started. Off they traveled with everyone running out of the house chasing them and screaming while George and Emmet were laughing all the way down the country road! George loved adventure!! George and Emmet were successful businessmen early on. During their high school summers, they ran the local Sedalia community pool, along with the on-site grill used for cooking hamburgers and hotdogs, along with chests of cold drinks. They rented out swimming suits to the local rural kids who didn't have suits of their own. They also served as lifeguards, maintained the grounds - including draining and refilling the pool every few days with fresh water. They always passed their regular state inspections with flying colors. George was especially proud of the quality of the pool, and their reputation: he always boasted that their personal quality control standards were much higher than state regulations, and, as such, George and Emmet were rewarded with continued popularity of the pool during their management. Waiting lines were long every day with visitors from all around the Greater Sedalia and outlying areas. They managed the company's finances, and it turned out to be a profitable endeavor for the young brothers, helping them to save money for college. Of course, getting to see the girls in their swimsuits was also an added benefit! The summers spent at the Sedalia pool was one of George's fondest and most recollected childhood memories.
After graduating from Sedalia High School, George studied one year at Missouri Business College. Then Emmet and he decided to go to the University of Texas in Austin, where they arrived by train late one night, and slept under a tree on campus waiting for everyone to wake the next morning. In his second year of college, George joined the service, wanting to be a pilot. His dream came true when he was accepted as a cadet pilot, and began training at various bases to get his wings. One of his training bases was at St. Joseph, Mo., near his hometown of Sedalia. While George was on one of his training flights, he thought it would be a great idea to buzz Main Street during the Halloween parade. He buzzed one end of Main Street to the other, and being a small town, everyone knew it was George who was back in town and doing another crazy, wild antic! George was having a ball!
On July 8, 1944, George received his pilot wings in Waco, Texas, and received his twin engine license (to fly the C47 Transport). By November, 1944, he finally got his orders to go on his WWII mission. Stationed in Florida, new C47's were being sent to the Pacific Theater, and George along with his complement of two complete crews per plane, took off at 4:00 am, destination Trinidad, Port-a-Spain. It was then on to Natal, Brazil, where long-range fuel tanks were added. George was always amazed at the logistical complexities that he saw there, with all the aircraft, battleships and submarines gearing up for action. Then it was off to the Ascension Islands 12 hours away. The two crews flew in 4 hour shifts each, and George slept in a large inflatable life raft when off duty not comfortable! The next destination was the Accro Coast, Africa (in the Gold Coast region). This is where they spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, enjoying Turkey dinner and nice accommodations. Then it was on to Cairo, Egypt, and Kartoum, Arabia on the Red Sea. Then on to Karachi, Pakistan, where they stayed for a week. Next up was Calcutta, India, the final destination for the new planes. "We lost our planes!" was the lament of the crews ferrying the C 47s.
Not knowing what his next assignment would be but hoping it had some adventure, George was ordered to the Assa Valley, India, and on to Sookateen, India. It was there he was to learn how to fly the Himalayas, i.e., how to master reading headings and other instrument-dependent skills to be able to take off from a valley and circle up to 10, 000 ft. George was now to become a "Hump" pilot. It was only on his second flight, with him as co-pilot, that they ran into to worst storm of his career. It was "Six hours of Hell", with both he and the pilot having to manhandle the controls to keep from losing the plane to iced wings and severe updrafts and downdrafts. The group lost 17 planes due to this storm. George was lucky to get to his destination, Kumming, China. It was great weather there being at 6, 000 ft, and he was there for some time flying supplies to remote camps. He loved telling about those days and was a wonderful storyteller who could always name every camp he flew into and all the details of his experiences, including getting sick of eating at the "Eggasis". These were thatched huts that only served rice and eggs. The eggs were brought down by the local village natives. They were held in baskets hung from bamboo sticks that balanced over their shoulders. These "Eggasis" were everywhere in China. That's all they had to eat - there was no way they'd eat the beautiful vegetables grown locally with local fertilizer. It's a surprise that he ever ate another egg after he got back from his duty. For sure he never ate rice!
Another story he loved was how he and his friends were sent tennis rackets and balls, and when they had free time, they had fun playing tennis. The locals all sat in a straight line watching them play, and then loved stealing and hiding the tennis balls between each other, making the Americans try to guess who had the balls. Then they'd all laugh and do it all over again! George said it was fun for all of them.
George also witnessed the locals running out in front of planes taking off, hoping to have their bad spirits removed by the propeller blades that was a horrific site.
At another Chinese base, LuLang, George learned how to catch wild monkeys. The locals tied a small mouth jar to a tree, put bits of food in it, knowing the monkey would grab the food inside the jar and refuse to let it go. They then caught him and gently broke the bottle and presto had a pet monkey! George adopted one pet monkey, Chico, who he taught to wear diapers. Everyone loved the monkey, at least during the day, because at night Chico chattered so much no one could sleep. Chico was eventually given to the house boy who dearly loved him too.
It was at this base, LuLang, when the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. They heard about it vaguely and didn't understand the significance of it bringing about the Japanese surrender until two weeks later when they were shipped to Shanghi, China where there was a POW camp still held by the Japanese military. The Japanese wouldn't let them land for two hours but finally allowed it. As they sat on the tarmac, two old Buicks drove up to the planes to take the crews to a hotel in town. There was a tense argument about leaving the planes unattended, with the Americans finally winning the argument and left a sergeant there to guard the planes poor soul. As George and the other Americans were driven into town, there were Japanese-manned machine gun nests on every corner hadn't they heard the war was over? It was very tense.
Later, George returned to Kumming awaiting orders to come home, when they were abruptly ordered to load their personal gear, board the planes and leave immediately. They were told that the Occupied (communist) Chinese were coming to take over their camps. Of course they had to leave behind many airplanes, tents, food, equipment and all resources. As they were taking off, George saw what appeared to be "ants" of Communist Chinese swarming down out of the hills heading towards their camps. They got out of there just in time! He was then taken to Calcutta, India, where they waited for 30 days before boarding troop ships, taken down the Yamuna River to the Red Sea, through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, to Gibraltar, and into the Atlantic. He was on his way home!
George flew over 1400 hours which included 400 combat hours. Many of his buddies were lost to the treacherous "Hump" in the war. He always talked about how fortunate he was for making it back after each mission he went on. He always felt extremely honored to be part of a group of Hump pilots who were personally thanked by Madame Chiang Kai-shek, First Lady of the Republic of China, the wife of Generalissimo and President Chiang Kai-shek, and subsequently received the Republic of China Air Medal in recognition of the Hump pilots' services in support of her country's war efforts.
He was on the first troop ship coming back from China. He said there wasn't a dry eye on the ship when they first saw the fire boats spraying water salutes and the sight of the Statue of Liberty as they came into the harbor back into the United States of America. Once docked, every soldier was immediately greeted with a Hershey bar, a pack of cigarettes, a Coca-Cola, and of course, hugs and kisses from hundreds of strangers who, in that moment, felt like family. We loved hearing about these stories.
After the War, George moved to Dallas and worked as a medical clinic manager. He moved to Corpus Christi where Emmet told him there was a job opening at the hospital there and with George's background, he'd be perfect for it. By then he and Nell Ruth Rankin had met and dated. He called Nell and said, "Let's get married!" They married in 1949 at her sister's home in Houston. George began his career of 23 years as a Hospital Administrator at Memorial Hospital and then to overseeing the construction of the Robstown Riverside Hospital and the running of it, as well. Nell continued her teaching career.
George and Nell had become close friends with Larry Teaver and his wife, Sue, when he lived in Dallas. Larry later became Chief of Staff for the Governor at the time. As a result of this friendship, they had many visits to Austin and a lot of partying ensued. While the Governor was away from the mansion, George and Nell along with Larry and Sue stayed and partied in the mansion, including driving the governor's car around town one night. During this exciting time, George also befriended the governor who later appointed George to the Texas Hospital Advisory Board on Hospital Construction. He and Nell also enjoyed an evening partying with Neil Armstrong while attending a Dallas Cowboys game. What a night and a time to remember and experience, and creating another great memory!
Through the years, George and Nell made many great friends and always enjoyed entertaining in their home with all of them. Friends were made everywhere -- from family, from neighbors, from work, and from church. They shared two fun 2nd homes with all their friends. One was on Lake Corpus Christi (formerly known as Lake Mathis) and the other was at the Gulfstream Condominiums on North Padre Island. Life was a party!
We will dearly miss George, and Nell, his wife and love for nearly 57 years, but they are together again, and we're sure still having their adventures with the rest of their beloved combined families and friends.
Good night, George, we'll miss you and all your many stories!
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