George H. Gordon, Husband, Father, Grandfather, Oilman and decorated World War II veteran, died peacefully in Naples, Florida May 21. He was 96.
In 1943, at age 18, with his platoon pinned down by an enemy machine gun nest and his assigned Browning Automatic Rifle unusable, PFC George Gordon delicately made his way within range of the lethal threat and knocked it out with perfectly placed grenades. For his bravery, the USMC awarded him the Silver Star. It was a defining moment that foreshadowed smaller acts of heroism throughout his life. Be ready to give your all, be present and ready to sacrifice in the name of principle and those you love.
“George marched to his own drummer, a non-conformist before it became in vogue,” remembers Barbara, his wife of 63 years. “He was unapologetically independent, knew who he was, dedicated to his convictions, and yet somewhat shy.”
Mr. Gordon was born and raised in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka, IL, the third of four sons to Robert and Louise Gordon. He attended Cornell University after the war. Following several years of Midwest assignments with leading oil companies, he moved to Grand Rapids in 1957 to open his own office as a self-employed Oil and Gas Landman.
“Dad faced every project with wide-eyed optimism. Some were solid prospects, others ended up dry holes, but he always saw the next opportunity on the horizon and went for it, even through sometimes bitter disappointment,” recalls his only child Guy.
“I grew up with a certifiable American hero, but it was his everyday heroics that still fill me with pride and gratitude. He always made sure to be home in time for a game of catch. He never lost patience chasing my errant pitches. Whether it was golf or my chosen profession, he always stated his belief in my potential to succeed, never wavering. He imbued me with his own love of news and events and curiosity in our world. From politics to sports and the arts, he was fully engaged.”
After his semi-retirement, Mr. Gordon dedicated himself to restoring 640 acres of land in Lake Co., near Luther. The trout stream was blocked with debris and the lake verged on becoming a bog. He engaged an engineering company to dredge and restore the lake. And Mr. Gordon, though in his 70’s, personally waded into the trout stream, cutting and clearing it himself over several months.
The property is now home to the Hillsdale College Biological Station, a living laboratory for aspiring biologists and conservationists. The George and Barbara Gordon Rockwell Lake Lodge nearby offers a natural venue for the school’s seminars and alumni events as well as everyday visitors hoping to enjoy a peaceful retreat in a pristine setting.
In the mid-70’s Mr. Gordon became a passionate patron of Grand Rapids artist Armand Merizon. He later collected the works of Grand Rapids’ foremost impressionist of the early 20th century, Mathias Alten.
Mr. Gordon donated his collection of Alten paintings to Grand Valley State University where they are now on display for the enjoyment of all in at the school’s Pew Campus in downtown Grand Rapids.
He and Mrs. Gordon are active supporters of the Grand Rapids Symphony.
In 2015 he co-founded the West Michigan Alliance for Veterans with his dear friend Paul Potter.
It continues to provide care, support, and opportunities to veterans throughout West Michigan.
His grandchildren were an unending source of pride and joy. He was their funny and silly Grampy.
The family wishes to thank his home caregivers in Grand Rapids and Naples, the professionals at Chateau at the Moorings, Avow Hospice and special thanks to Pam Dearien for her steadfast kindness and companionship in the past few weeks.
He is survived by his wife Barbara, son Guy and daughter-in-law Gale. He leaves behind 3 grandchildren: George Whitson Gordon (Kathleen), Greer Gordon Spangler (Chris) and Graham Gordon (Kayla). Great-Grandchildren Henry, Charlotte and Louise.
Memorial services will be held at 10:00 A.M. on Saturday July 17, 2021 at Mayflower Congregational Church, 2345 Robinson Rd. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506.
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