Deceased November 5, 2003
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George Garrett lived across the hall from me freshman year on the fourth floor of Stearns, and we quickly became friends. George and his roommate, Jim Noyes, had gone to Swarthmore High School in suburban Philadelphia, just a few miles from where I lived. We played Amherst freshman football together and shared rides home or the holidays. We stopped off in New York City that first winter, stayed overnight at the Greenwich Village “Y”—it reminded us of “home” (Stearns)—and wandered around in that heady atmosphere.
Junior year George, Sid Bixler, Stu Snyder and I roomed together at Theta Delt. That fall George met the love of his life, Susan Stanhope, when Stu, George and I wandered into Susan’s house at Smith looking for dates. By senior year, George and Sue were married and living off campus.
After graduation from Amherst with a major in history, George started out as a marketing management trainee with Arco (then known as The Atlantic Refining Co., later as Atlantic Richfield) in the Philadelphia area. His career, as he progressed through the ranks of the growing company, took him all over the world. He worked for the company’s chemical and coal divisions, spending the majority of his career in marketing. At one point he ran the New Haven, Conn., transportation center, then later helped negotiate coal and gas leases in Indonesia before shifting gears to market an early electronic payment debit system for the oil company.
George and Susan moved fifteen times and along the way had three children, David, Diane ’84 and John, who did a lot of their growing up during a several-year residence in Denver. George decided to take an early retirement package in 1995. At that time they were living in San Marino, Calif., where Susan was in real estate and George had discovered sailing They sold their house and sailboat and came back east to look for a place close to the water. At one of the places they visited—a development on Skidaway Island near Savannah, Ga.—George spotted a familiar face getting out of a car, just as he was getting out of his own. It was his freshman roommate! Jim and Sue Noyes chose to live on Skidaway, but George and Susan preferred what they saw in the area around Irvington, Va., just off the Rappahannock River at the entrance to Chesapeake Bay. They bought their dream house, but soon saw another they liked even better, down the road and closer to the water on Poplar Neck Cove in White Stone, and made a switch. A replacement sailboat also came along.
George and Susan quickly became active in the Northern Neck community. They gave tours as docents at historic Christ Church in Irvington. George chaired the yard sale at Grace Episcopal Church in Kilmarnock for several years. He was also a member of the Indian Creek Yacht and Country Club and the Rappahanock River Yacht Club and was a longtime volunteer for Amherst. He was a happy advocate of Northern Neck life, helping convince Bob Denny that he would be making the right choice to move there.
George died of cancer on Nov. 5, 2003, in White Stone. When he had received the initial colon cancer diagnosis three years earlier, he chose to stand the pain and weakening effects of treatment rather than simply acquiesce to the verdict. With the help of Harold Varmus at Sloan-Kettering in New York, George gained access there. Initial surgery had looked promising, though within a year the cancer had spread. At that point George was told he had six months to live, but he fought the disease through aggressive treatment for another two years. Before he could even begin the challenging rounds of experimental chemotherapy that came next, George had to endure multiple surgeries. Once chemotherapy started, there began periodic flights from Richmond to New York in the morning and return in the evening after a painful and exhausting regimen.
During all this period, George was as gentle, as “up” and as quick to amuse as ever. I don’t know how he did it, except that he was delighted that he was able to enjoy family and friends, tennis, golf, sailing, community activities and travel as much or more than ever. Whenever she visited from California, many of George’s friends told Diane what a role model her father had been for them and how he had visited others, whether they were terminally ill or just recovering from a broken bone, even as jaundice and various aches and pains were taking their toll on him. He was working to establish a colon cancer prevention program as Northern Neck Free Health Clinic in Kilmarnock until the very end of his life, and the local newspaper featured the story the week before he died.
In August 2003, George told me that his doctors at Sloan-Kettering had decided he could no longer continue with the experimental treatment there because his liver tests were outside program parameters, I spoke with him again in September, when the Northern Neck was without power because of Hurricane Isabel. He was trying to get into an experimental treatment program in Norfolk, but in October, his condition worsened and by November it became a blessing that he didn’t linger too long.
Susan said that if George had gotten into the Norfolk program, he might have had six more months, but we’ll never know, and as it was, he lived a good life and enriched the lives of those who knew him.
Roger Cox ’61
Susan Garrett Williams writes:
Just a few more thoughts about George. Throughout his life he gave back to his community in many ways. In the early years he was a cub scoutmaster and head of the local PTA. In retirement he gave free tax help to the elderly every year, chaired our church yard sale which was at least a six month effort and was an interpreter at a local historical site.
I would add that Amherst was always a very special place to him, and he had so many happy memories both of his time there and of his classmates. It was a joy to me that he enjoyed eight happy retirement years relaxing and doing what he wanted to. He had many friends and enjoyed golf, sailing, tennis and traveling.