Amherst Magazine

George G. Whitehead '38

Deceased July 26, 2009
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George G. Whitehead

George loved to collect and narrate colorful anecdotes about New England friends, neighbors and eccentrics. But in family lore, the dawn of his own life also provided a good story. As a baby, he sailed on the first warship to pass through the newly-opened Panama Canal.

As daughter Jane Whitehead tells it, George’s father, Richard H. Whitehead, an engineer with the Panama Canal Commission, brought the family aboard for the trip.  And an astonished general happening on the bridge caught mother giving George a diaper change as father steered the ship.

Born in 1915 in the Canal Zone, George grew up in Connecticut, where his father headed the New Haven Clock Company.  At Amherst, he played freshman baseball and belonged to Chi Phi fraternity and pre-law club. He graduated from Yale Law School in 1941. During the war, he served in military bases at home “fixing radios,” another daughter, Patricia Swanson said.

George had a highly visible law career, serving on the Labor Relations Board, as an assistant attorney general in Connecticut and as prosecutor of the town court in seaside Guilford, where he lived in an ancestral home and became an Atticus Finch figure. A newspaper obit quoted him as saying he gave away more money than he kept.

In 1976, he moved to a smaller family place in Laconia, NH, where he also was well-known and where he died July 26, 2009, aged 94. Daughters Jane and Patricia said his health deteriorated after a hip fracture but that his mind was sharp to the end.

He is also survived by two other daughters, Jean O’Brien and Freda Wood, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. His wife, Norma Wiersig died in 1989. A son, George Goethals, Jr., and three brothers also predeceased him.

George Bria '38

 

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