George Grove entered this world on June 15, 1917 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and left it on December 17, 2015 in Florida. In between he met the love of his life, raised four children and three grandchildren, shared the gift of knowledge with hundreds of students, advocated for the rights of the elderly in various organizations, won numerous awards, was the captain of the football team, became a football coach, was featured in a documentary film, and caught thousands of fish and threw most of them back.
For years George kept a framed picture that reads “A fisherman lives here with the best catch of his life.” George met Betty in Berryville, Virginia in 1941. Betty first saw George when she was working as a switchboard operator for the telephone company. Every afternoon she would stand in the office window and watch people walk from school to the drugstore. She noticed a handsome teacher who always had one and sometimes two girls on his arms. “Who’s that?” she asked her coworker. That was George.
They met not long after. Betty was with friends at the Shenandoah River and slipped on the river bank and was cut. “Is anyone here a Boy Scout?” she called. George walked out of the river, shirtless and gleaming. “I’m a Boy Scout,” he said.
George and Betty were together from that moment on. In the early days George would sit in the pew behind her at church and pull her hair. That October they got married there. Seventy-two years later handsome George sat crying for Betty’s funeral in those same pews. On that day his wallet still contained a black-and-white picture of her in a bathing suit — a blue bathing suit he would tell you, and she looked great in it.
George and Betty raised four children: Dave, Kitty, Margie, and Charlie. Though George and Betty stayed near home, their children traveled around the globe, moved the world forward with their hard work, and actively cared for both George and Betty until their last days. They raised three grandchildren: Anne, Stephen, and myself.
George lived until he was 98. His mind was always sharp. He was independent until only very recently. He was a caretaker of many for as long as he could be. He was still a flirt to his last days.
Who can ask for more of life than this?
I am named after George — Yancey George — and so is my son. Grandpa was a hero to me, and a model for what it is to be a man of integrity.
I remember him playing hand after hand of solitaire in his chair. I remember his hands on my mine as he taught me to fish, first with a bobber, then to cast, and always teaching patience. Once we caught a catfish together. I remember him going for late night swims. I don’t remember what his eyes look like because he smiled so much. His face to me is forever a smile, his mouth open and wide.
I am the man that I am because of him. I proposed to my wife with George there because I wanted her to know that she was marrying the man I am today and the man I will be in old age. We named our son after him because we want him to have George’s warmth, kindness, and sly and flirty nature. I strive to live up to George as my namesake and my son will too.
My brother Stephen and I are the men we are today because of how George raised my mother. My mom loves her Dad very much. He was always an encouraging and comforting presence for her. There are eight key life lessons she learned from him:
- Live life well and boldly but always with humility.
- Honor your father and mother.
- Love the Lord your God.
- Always give back and never give up.
- Don’t look back with regret but look forward with anticipation.
- Be innovative.
- It’s okay to throw the fish back in the water. Let them grow old with you.
- Love lasts a lifetime.
This gathering near the beautiful Shenandoah River shows just how true that last one is. George you loved so many so much for so long, and we all loved you too. We’ll never stop missing your touch and your laugh, but your spirit will always be with us. We love you and miss you, George.