Amherst Magazine

George W. R. Sykes '38

Deceased August 13, 2007
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George W. R. Sykes

“This is George Sykes returning you to your local studio.”

That name and voice forecasting the weather were once familiar to countless listeners to Station WPQR in Portland, ME.

A weather man—an unlikely career for an Amherst English major, but no surprise to classmates and friends who knew of George’s many talents and exciting youth in the outdoors.

“An amazing guy, very modest, sweet,” said Frank Whitmore, a Phi Psi brother who roomed with him two years and kept in touch into old age.  Frank especially recalled George quietly taking a select night seminar with Robert Frost at the poet’s home.  He became a lifelong devotee of Frost and of Emily Dickinson.

In recent years, along with his Class notes, George often enclosed a Frost or Dickinson poem or an article about them.  His letters were festooned with decorative stamps of cats and dogs.  He also sent this Class secretary an assortment of blueberry preserves at Christmas time.  It recalled the days when George, early in his retirement, harvested wild blueberries in Maine for profit as well as pleasure.

George died of congestive heart failure at his home in Thomaston, ME, on August 13, 2007, a few weeks after his ninety-third birthday, then the oldest of the Old Guard ’38ers.  He had been ailing for some time but still loved to drive his car locally until, his family said, he quit at ninety-two without explanation.

Born in Galeton, PA, George grew up in the small lumbering town of Conifer, NY, in the Adirondacks where his family operated the Emporium Forestry Co.  In later life, he often returned to the Adirondacks in the summer, and he would tell stories of his youth as a lumberjack, fisherman and ice cutter and of riding the rails of his grandfather’s Grass River Railroad.

George prepared for Amherst at Exeter.  With an English degree, he first taught English at a small boys’ school in Baltimore.  He also met and married Nora Louise McCracken of Philadelphia, who has predeceased him.

Joining the army in WWII, he was offered a chance to become a meteorologist with the US Air Corps and that went on to become his life’s work as a US government weather observer and forecaster in Portland until he retired in 1975.  He and Nora then moved to Thomaston.  He volunteered at the Rockland library and did readings several times a week at the Knox Home in Rockland.

Besides his wife, George was predeceased by a daughter, Rachel; a son, Peter; and a sister, Jean LeCompte.  He is survived by a daughter, Rebekah Huckle, four grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.

In our 50th Reunion book in 1988, George wrote, “As an earth shaker, I rate about minus ten on the Richter Scale.  Yet life has been good to me and mine.”

George Bria ’38

 

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