George was born on June 12, 1922, and was the 10th child of eleven kids. He was 91 when he died. He leaves 12 direct nephews and nieces, and 66 second nephews and nieces. He and Bernice were married 47 years. This is no surprise because, after all, it was love at first sight for both of them. She was a nurse when he met her, and he decided to kiss her after only chatting with her for a couple of hours. Two months later he married her.
He was born in California, and it sounds like many of the nieces and nephews have fond memories of visiting George at his place in Malibu. Everyone knew George as someone who loved making and giving away trinkets. He never did stop doing this, since so many children who attend St. Norbert’s school were blessed to get 2 trinkets or 20 of them throughout the year.
George was definitely famous in his own right. Bernice told me he appeared frequently on PBS with the Boy Scouts, showcasing interesting craft projects. George taught a few classes at Orange Coast Community College. He and Bernice were even a part of the founding board of directors for Cal State LA.
It was commonly thought that George was going to become a priest. He was always very religious and was known to many as our “local John the Baptist.” He used to go to Mass every day, and there was one time recently when he walked to church from his home only using his walker. He had his first scooter stolen, but this did not deter him from accomplishing what he set out to do.
George never wanted to shy away from conversations that dealt with politics or religion. He always promoted Christian Unity, and encouraged people to go to other Christian churches not for the sake of converting others to be Catholic, but to show others that we support them and love them. In fact, he claims to have helped put up the Missionary Cross in this church, which is found opposite side of the altar, over the baptismal font. He reminded priests and parishoners alike that it was at the moment of our baptism that we were also being called to be Missionaries for Christ. George was also inter-religious and I finally went to visit and pray at a local mosque during Ramadan with him. He never wanted to stop hosting these “missionary events,” and I thank St. Norbert’s bulletin editor Jo-an as well as Fr. Pat for allowing George to keep placing announcements in the bulletin, regardless if any one showed up.
George was always very generous. He and Bernice actually gave away an RV to a homeless family one time, and had let some people live with them whether it was a single mother and her children, or a homeless man who needed some shelter during the winter.
Bernice always said, “well, if you ever need a place to stay, we have a spare room, and I think George could use some male companionship.” Bernice mentioned this almost every time I visited, and I silently pondered the thought. Little did I know that five years later, I would actually live with George.
I only lived with him for a short time, from February until the end of June of this year. Within that time I learned so much more about caring for another person.
I learned that it was more important to have George live as long as he could in his own home, and stick to his old ways, than to place him elsewhere or be upset at him for his bad habits. I learned that George required me to love him in that unconditional, inconvenient way. It was inconvenient to take George to Mass because I had to give extra time, or show up late to Mass. It was inconvenient to do shopping with George. I couldn’t just go and grab the items he need. Quite often he wanted to do it. And also grab a couple of other items not on the shopping list.
I started to realize that real love is often inconvenient. Accepting the inconvenience helped me die to my Self. Will I have enough patience? Will I give him my attention or time only when I feel like it? In the end, to be someone’s companion meant that I needed to be there as much as I could, until I reached a point of some uncomfortability. Then I was loving George.
Thanks, George, for all the things you’ve done for us. Thank you for being a missionary for the rest of us. Pray for us that we will take your place and seek to be better Christians, thoughtful of children, and determined to make a better society, even if it’s inconvenient.