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Our new neighbor, Harry George, celebrated his 99th birthday the July Fourth weekend in a special way.
George, thanks to his daughter, Cindy, and her husband, David Hall, has a signature brick at the Veterans Memorial Circle that surrounds the George Danhires statute at the southeast corner of PARTA's Multimodal Transportation Center in downtown Kent.
A second brick has been installed for Cindy's brother, Robert, who served in the military during the war in Vietnam.
Sunday the two men, accompanied by family, visited the memorial to view their bricks. They had been ordered from and installed by PARTA, each brick costing $50.
Most of the memorial's bricks begin with the words, "In Honor of" and then name the veteran and the unit in which he or she served. Harry George's brick says, "VMF 217 FGTR SQD". That stands for Marine Fighter Squadron VMF 217, a unit that served aboard the flattops USS Barnes in the New Hebrides, the USS Santee (Guam), and then the USS Barnes and finally, the HMS Rajah, a British ship. His World War II service lasted from 1942 to 1945.
Robert George, served in the war in Vietnam in 1970. His brick says, "CALV DIV 2 12A & Co." This stands for First Air Cavalry Division, which served in Vietnam for 14 months. Sergeant Robert George was a member of a unit ordered into Cambodia from April to June 1970.
That was the incursion that set off the protests on the Kent State campus in May, 1970. George's company lost seven men and he was the last of more than 32 men evacuated out. He then served as an acting medic for an isolated Vietnamese hamlet.
Enlisted for combat
When World War II broke out, Harry George enlisted in the Marines, "because I wanted to fight." However, the Marines discovered his prodigious mechanical abilities and assigned him to locations in the Pacific to maintain Corsairs, an American fighter aircraft.
Repeated attempts to transfer to combat were rejected, with the Marines ruling his talents with machinery were too important for the U.S. war effort.
Finally, before his discharge, back in America and stationed in Memphis, he married his childhood sweetheart, Bettye Sue Meyer, the two having known each other since growing up next door on Earl Avenue. They lived happily ever after until Mrs. George died in 2013.
George can build just about anything and spent his career at Kent Machines where he designed and constructed custom ordered equipment. Customers would tell him what they wanted to do. George would design and build a machine for them to do it. One of the company's largest customers was Goodyear.
An interesting man
Harry George recently moved in with his daughter, Cindy, and her husband, Dave. At 99, he likes to be useful and not sit around. Several of his many creations decorate the Hall household. An especially intriguing one is a handsome mechanical Grandfather Clock built entirely out of wood.
Saturday, when Janet and I stopped to say, "Happy Birthday," we found him surrounded with family and friends. His son, Robert George, a microbiologist retired from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, was present with his wife, Ann. Another son, from Palo Alto, Michael George and his wife, also named Ann, were there. Michael recently retired from NASA. Another son, Stephen, vice president of a North Carolina development company, and his wife, Robin, were present.
If they have not done so, those active in the Kent Historical Society's oral history project would do well to interview Mr. George.
He is fun to talk with and he knows a lot. His paternal and maternal grandfathers settled in Kent after the Civil War and were successful in business. His father, Will George, was head accountant for Lamson and Sessions when its president was Major Roy Smith, a towering Kent figure.
Having started out with his wife and growing family on Highland Avenue, Mr. George eventually bought land from the Smith family on Akron-Kent Boulevard, later renamed Majors Lane. The late Don Bentley built the George family a home there and that is where they resided for many years.