It was on this day in 1966, that Gene George died unexpectedly at his home at 137 N. Tenth Street, Connellsville, PA. His obituary was on the front page of the Connellsville Daily Courier on Friday December 30th. According to his daughter, he died of a heart attack, which seems to be the cause of death for many of the George men – several as early as their mid-fifties. (Might want to note that for health conditions if you happen to share the Y chromosome!) This obituary gives a pretty good overview of Gene’s many accomplishments. But as with any obituary, it can’t really capture the significance of the deceased to his family and friends. Maybe this post will shed a bit of light on Gene George.
This is one of my favorite pictures and shows Gene (on the left) with his brother Joe. Family stories often recount fun times at Joe’s house in Midland PA where Sunday dinner was still a full Italian affair. They both look so happy in this picture, which I think was taken at Joe’s house in Midland PA. I love finding details about our ancestors in newspapers and historical records, but I love the personal recollections of family members who knew them even more. There’s no shortage of accounts of what a generous, tolerant, kind and loving man Gene George was. Many thanks to Lainie McGreevy for sharing this picture. And happy belated birthday! In an interesting coincidence, Lainie McGreevy (Elaine B. George, second daughter born to Joe and Olive George) shares a birth day with her grandfather Adriano, which means that the anniversary of her birth is also the anniversary of the day Custode died. Oh the things we discover through genealogy.
Before I knew any of the George relatives we’ve found on this journey, I had an image of Gene as the dutiful son, living at home with Custode and Lena as late as 1938 according to the Dunbar City Directory. I thought he was a confirmed bachelor, perhaps even somewhat reclusive or maybe shy and awkward. Why else would he be living with his mother until he was in his mid-30s, I wondered? And his profession in the 1940 census listed as ” State Auditor” seemed to support this assumption of someone with an introverted personality. The stories from people who knew Gene reveal a different picture.
It turns out Gene married in 1938, a few months after he turned 36 (even though the age on his marriage license in West Virginia is 34.) His wife, Annorah Riley, was born in England and came to America with her aunt and her sister after her parents died when she was a girl. Gene and Nora had two children, Robert Spencer (Bobby) born on April 28, 1940 and Carole Ann born on June 8, 1943.
Earlier today I tracked down this marriage license from Gene and Nora’s wedding in Hancock,West Virginia. Note that Gene’s age is listed as 34, but he was actually 36.
Gene was one of the first of Custode’s and Adriano’s children that Rick and I learned about when we visited the Dunbar Historical Society in 2013. Some of the baptismal records of St. Aloysius Church are copied in notebooks there and we found an entry for the baptism of Luigino Anthony George on January 12, 1902. This record confirms his birth date as December 18, 1901 and can be found in the St Aloysius Church Records labelled: B 847 Vol 248. Interestingly we did not find baptism records for any of the other children even though they all grew up in Dunbar.
Based on this information we know that Custode and Adriano moved to Dunbar sometime before January 1902 and most likely sometime before December 1901 when Gene was born. In the 1900 census they were living in Derry, PA with their son Frederick William and living next door to Peter and Rose Bootsaddle – an interesting phonetic spelling by the census taker for Custode’s older sister and her husband – Rosallia and Peter Buzzelli.
But I digress – because this post is about Gene L.A. George. The Gene obviously comes from Luigino but I love that in his later years, he paid homage to his full name by using L.A. as his middle initials – as evidenced in this newspaper clipping when he was running in the Democratic primary for County Commissioner. The field included 14 candidates and although he did well in Connellsville (third highest vote getter with 513 votes only 3 votes behind the leader), he was not successful in gaining a spot in the general election although I can’t seem to figure out exactly where he fell in the primary votes for the whole county.
Dominic Renzi has very fond memories of Gene, which help offset the less pleasant memories of Gene’s sister Lena, who married Dom’s father in 1939. After Nick Renzi died in 1949, it was Gene who finally got Lena to leave the Renzi home on Limestone Hill and paid for her to live in an apartment in Connellsville.
When Dom was living on Limestone Hill and renovating the old farm house, he went into town one day to meet Gene for lunch. Afterwards they were walking along the street and stopped beside a pickup truck. Gene made casual conversation and asked if Dominic like the truck. He said he did and Gene said, “Well, it’s yours.” Up to that point, Dom had been hauling the lumber and other supplies he needed for the renovation in the back of a sedan that had been modified by removing the rear seats. Interestingly Carole Ann remembers the truck but she never knew that her father bought it for Dom.
Dom was very close to Bobby, Gene’s son, who by all accounts was a talented high school athlete. According to Dom, Bobby quit playing football because Gene was a bit too invested in the game from the sidelines, often arguing with the referees and also “coaching” Bobby from the sidelines. If you assume that competitiveness has a genetic basis, as someone who lives with three Georges, I can vouch for the fact that it is alive and well in the George gene pool! (So for obvious reasons, I’m not looking forward to tonight’s Cotton Bowl between USC and OSU. Let’s just say we’ve got family members pulling for each team and somebody has to lose.)
So if anyone reading this would like to share some recollections of Gene George please leave a comment below.
Allow me to close with an interesting genealogical coincidence that has nothing to do with the George family but a lot of significance for me. December 29th also marks the passing of another special man, Charles Sedden Latham, Jr. better known as “My Buck.”
Nana and Buck were my maternal grandparents. Buck was actually my grandmother’s second husband but much more a part of my upbringing than my biological grandfather. Nana and Buck took care of me as an infant when my mother joined my father in Bremerton Washington – his naval assignment in early 1956. According to Nana, “Buck” was my first word. Apparently they rushed me to the hospital because I was having trouble breathing and when I gasped and took a breath I hollered “BUCK.”
Nana and Buck were always a part of my life and provided a good example of what happy married life looked like. Buck did not die suddenly, in fact he was in the hospital for almost 6 weeks. Even though I was 17 when he died, and knew that his death (from emphysema) was inevitable, is anyone ever “old enough” to lose someone they love? I think the hardest part was seeing my grandmother’s grief – I don’t think I had ever seen her cry before Buck’s funeral.
So here’s a happy picture of me and “my Buck” circa 1956.Wishing everyone a healthy and happy New Year.