Born in rural Ontario in 1931, George spent many childhood hours assembling audio equipment, studying circuitry, gaining understanding of electronics and physics, experimenting with new ways of doing things. This childhood ingenuity would ultimately take him around the world.
Leaving home at seventeen, George eventually joined the Canadian forces as they were engaged in the United Nations action in Korea, where his electronic skills were put to use in the Air Force. His plane shot down, George, the only survivor, hung by his parachute from a tree for three days. The broken neck, separated shoulder and spinal injuries plague him to this day. So does the memory of the decades -long battle to reverse military records that declared him dead! Recently acknowledged as a survivor and gaining some benefits from Veteran Affairs, new “rule changes”, however, prohibit him from acquiring a military pension.
George’s next career was with NORAD, again specializing in electronics and communications. Nothing can be shared about this phase of his work as much of it was secret service.
When George left NORAD, he returned to Toronto where he worked for RCA Radio. During this time, he got a University Degree in Physics and Math. Having worked in the field for so long, even holding patents on some equipment, George was able to challenge courses. “Sometimes,” he says matter-of-factly, “I was teaching them because I had the practical experience to match the theory”.
George added deep-sea diving to his skills and went to England to work for a diving company that served oil rigs world-wide, including India and Iran.
Back in Britain, he was summoned one day because a fellow’s leg was caught in an outflow grate at the mouth of the Thames River. George, surveying the situation, suggested that, though the tide was rising, he could keep the man alive while he cut through the grate. He had to be gone for about an hour to gather diving equipment. As he returned, he witnessed a helicopter hovering above the scene. To his horror, a line extended from the helicopter to the trapped man. With an upward thrust, the helicopter pulled the man in half. George went public with his outrage which did not end well for George.
Outrage followed to his next adventure where, back in Canada, he got a job with the Avro Arrow super jet project. George was proud to be working on something that promised to be the best in the world, potentially positioning Canada as a world air power. Political forces, international jealousies and super egos would soon dash the hopes and dreams of many Canadians as the new Diefenbaker Conservative Government scrapped the Liberal-backed Arrow for being too expensive, they argued. In one day, 14 000 workers in the A.V. Roe Company were fired. Many went on to work at NASA. Flooded with offers, integrity forced George to decline to work for the Americans as they had played quite a large role in the Arrow’s demise.
George worked as an electrician in a pit-mine in Port Hardy for the remainder of his formal working years, twice surviving electrocution! He retired to Port Alberni in 1995. Along with his son, Calvin, he set up a home-based company specializing in audio research and development, with patents pending.
As people age, we sometimes see only infirmity, but when we hear their story we recognize that these vital people often lived lives of challenge, adventure, integrity and courage. Balking at the word “courage”, George says, “I was simply open to the risk”.