Gloria George died peacefully on May 29, 2019 at her home in Boise, Idaho with family at her side. With the help of a brewing lightning storm, the cosmos celebrated her passing with a flash of white light illuminating the horizon. “Good-bye World. Hello Universe!”
Gloria’s lineage tracks back to William Bradford and 1620 when he sailed on the Mayflower to the newfound land of America. Skip ahead 300+ years to 1927 when her birth increased the population of Astoria, Oregon by one. She grew up along the Columbia River and treasured the time she spent with her father on the river as first mate aboard his boat. In 1940, her father purchased a Steinway piano that continued to bring Gloria much joy throughout her life.
During World War II, after working long hours at his store, her father would patrol the Columbia River searching for Japanese submarines by night. His body wore out from “nervous exhaustion”. Gloria was a mere 17 when she drove the family to Palm Springs, CA hoping the dry heat would help him recover. He died from a stroke later that year on Christmas Day.
Midway through her political science degree at UCLA, she took time off for a Youth Hostel bicycle trip across Europe followed by some hitchhiking on trucks and crashing in everything from a barn to an abandoned castle. Upon returning to UCLA as the President of the International Student Group, she had the privilege of squiring Eleanor Roosevelt, the First Lady of the United States, around campus. It is through this organization that she met her future husband, an international student from Bulgaria who came to the States after WWII for medical care and to study English.
In 1965, she and her husband took a phenomenal extensive trip around the globe from Hong Kong to Teheran, Athens and Cairo to Angkor Wat, Cambodia and more. Shortly after that adventure, Gloria decided she and her children were best separated from him and moved to Santa Barbara. In hindsight, the trauma of the war resulted in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and was affecting the marriage and family.
Her life resume is rich in culture, with difficult challenges as a single mom, and giving of herself to others. The business skills she acquired working with her former husband’s business opened doors for the rest of her career. If handling the stressors of a booming company wasn’t enough, she was responsible for carting four energetic kids across town for the plethora of activities kids did in the 60’s and then coming home to prepare dinner, often for visiting relatives and friends from Europe.
Being a single mom back in the 60’s was not common, but Gloria didn’t let that stop her forward progress; she never looked back. With four restless kids in tow, she moved to Northern California at the Bar 717 Ranch, an experiential summer camp in a wilderness forest where she was the camp secretary. Then she became a multi-tasker as teacher, chef, counselor and bus driver at an alternative school for “troubled” students.
In her final move to Santa Barbara, she worked for the vice president of Sambo’s Restaurants, which eventually led to becoming a real estate broker and corporate accountant for a prestigious firm. Upon retirement, she became an entrepreneur and provided professional services to corporations.
Some of Gloria’s most adventurous experiences were as a volunteer, which she found to be life enriching and stretched her boundaries outside her comfort zone. In 1985, at the age of 58, Gloria decided to offer her business skill set philanthropically by joining the Peace Corps. She spent two years in Fiji as a bank officer for the Fijian Development Bank assisting local businesses to thrive in a depressed economy. Back then, the knowledge of HIV/AIDS was still in its infancy; the wise Chief gave her permission to attend an educational class offered to the local Indian female villagers to learn about HIV. Using the local fruit crop (the banana) as her prop, she learned the proper usage of the latex condom. For a grey haired ol’ lady, that took a lot of courage in those days!
Upon returning to the States, she became a volunteer with Direct Relief International and trained to be come an American Red Cross HIV/AIDS prevention educator. In addition, Gloria was an ARC National Disaster Relief volunteer and felt honored to support the 9/11 recovery efforts in New York City. Gloria said, “As horrifying as the scene was, it was enriching to experience caring citizens from across the United States of America working together for the support and love of our country.”
Her passion for golf began in the 1960’s; her medical history of three hip replacements, three trigger finger repairs and a rotator cuff reconstruction never slowed Gloria down from playing a round of 18 holes of golf (until she turned 89 and her joints finally said “au revoir”). She has been described as a “natural golfer with great tempo”. Her response was, “Whatever.”
In her late 70’s, Gloria settled in Mesquite, Nevada to be near Ann Rice, her longtime friend of 35 years. Beautiful golf courses solidified the decision to move. She continued to volunteer with many organizations, including the Rotary Club, Mesquite’s Annual Long Drive competition and Veterans events. For her many years of giving back to her community, the Mesquite mayor honored Gloria with the “Distinguished Citizen of the Year” award. The friendships she developed in Mesquite greatly enriched her life.
In 2016, she moved to Boise to be close to her daughter and son-in-law. She loved Idaho’s four seasons with the spectrum of color in the Fall and Spring along with nurturing new friendships.
Gloria was proud of many accomplishments throughout her 92 years of life. Always, first and foremost, she bragged about her four kids. Looking back, one that amazed her was that since she first sat behind the wheel as a teen, she was never docked for one traffic ticket, violation, or car accident. Other than not having her bearings after moving to Idaho, the motivation for giving up her keys was to continue that clean record!
Gloria is survived by her four children, Annka, Lloyd, Vanessa and Sarah. Her sister, EJ, and her ex-husband, Van, (both 96 years old) are still ticking. She also extends her legacy to her many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, Gloria and her family request donations be made to the University of Kentucky, Sanders-Brown Center on Aging (800 South Limestone, Room 311, Lexington, KY 40536). Specify the “Remember When Fund” which is dedicated in memory of Gloria. The fund supports research into LATE (Limbic-predominant Age-related TDP-43 Encephalopathy) that is a newly defined type of dementia that affected Gloria during the last years of her life.