John Henry George was born on August 26, 1930 in Butte, Montana, to Gwen (Spurr) and Ernest George. The family added four daughters over the next twelve years and lived in a small log house with no electricity, indoor plumbing, or telephone on the family “ranch.” John loved his sisters but slept in a tent whenever the weather allowed.
John enjoyed school, but because he had to milk the cows, he was limited in his extracurricular activities. Somehow, he found the time to be a regular singer at local establishments, thus earning the nickname, “Torchy.”
John served proudly in the Marine Corps during the Korean conflict but considered himself extremely fortunate that he was never called overseas. He enjoyed the fellowship of his local Marine Corps League in Montana for many years.
John had a great skill with automobiles which began with rebuilding his first car at age 14 from a pile of parts. He enjoyed several years as a truck driver, then, in 1967, started his own truck repair shop. Along with his wife, Donna, who managed bookkeeping and office work, he built a business that had a reputation for fair, honest work.
John became involved with the Lutheran church as an adult, but with many friends and family in other churches, he was comfortable with a very wide variety of religious traditions. His ecumenism inspired his own children and step-children as they found their own way in faith and identity.
John loved to sing and act, and recently, his favorite activity was his weekly music therapy voice lesson, where he had his last performance, via Zoom, singing “New York, New York” at age 90.
Though John and Donna loved their home in the mountains, they also loved to travel. Several trips overseas interspersed with many wonderful road trips across the United States, including driving to Alaska. Some trips required auto repair on the road, but he didn’t complain.
When Donna died in 2018, John moved to Springfield to be closer to his youngest child, JB. While these were years spent missing Donna, John did enjoy going to concerts, especially those with his grandchildren performing. Though he had been living with Parkinson’s Disease for several years, his health began deteriorating more rapidly in 2021. He died on the Sunday after All Saints Day, sometimes called “All Saints Sunday.” In addition to his wife, Donna, he was also preceded in death by his parents, sister Mary (and husband Al) Guidi, and sister Donna Lee George. He is survived by his youngest sisters Jean (Len) Fairfield and Joan (Dave) Price, sons Ernie (Kristi) and JB (Connie), step-children Bob Redfern, Jo Ann Redfern, and Bonnie (Jim) Greek, along with eight grandchildren and step-grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
It was John’s wish that he could help further research on Parkinson’s Disease, and he wanted his body to be donated for scientific study at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. Graveside services will be held in Montana, likely in the summer of 2022. Memorials may be made to the Parkinson’s Foundation or to a charity of the donor’s choice.
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