Obituary: G. Worth George

Longtime executive director of Pilgrim Place

G. Worth George died November 22, 2017 at his home in Naperville, Illinois. He was 84 years old.

Mr. George was born on April 7, 1933 in Goshen, Indiana. He was an only child and was raised by his paternal grandfather. He graduated from Goshen High School in 1951.

He played the clarinet in high school and college, both in marching band and symphonies. He was also an avid ping-pong player. He loved reading, learning and sharing his knowledge.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy from Manchester College, North Manchester, Indiana, in 1955, and a bachelor of divinity from Bethany Biblical Seminary in Richmond, Indiana, in 1958.

He continued his education, earning two advanced degrees: a master’s in management and marketing from UCLA, and a master  of public administration from Cal State Fullerton in 1983. He also had state licenses in long-term care administration and personal counseling, was a fellow in the American College of Health Care Administrators, in Washington DC, and was included in Who’s Who in the West.

Mr. George met his wife, Mary Lou Smith, while in college. They were married on November 24, 1956, and settled in the Chicago area. They had three children, Diane, Larry and Lynda.

He served as chaplain at Chicago’s Bethany General Hospital for two years. He also answered his call as pastor in several Chicago churches for eight years.

In August of 1966, the family moved to Thousand Oaks, where Mr. George took a job as minister at the Church of the Oaks.

In 1973, he accepted the position of executive director of Pilgrim Place—a nationally-recognized community for retired church professionals—and the family moved to Claremont. This job proved both very rewarding and quite challenging, through highs and lows of finances, resident care, keeping up with artesian wells popping up everywhere during heavy rain periods, and the tasks and joys associated with the annual Pilgrim Place Festival.

Mr. George managed large projects and improvements, including Pilgrim Place’s indoor Aquatics Fitness Center and new Health Center. He approached new projects with the attitude of, “If we are going to do this project, we are going to do it right,” his family shared. For example, the Aquatics Fitness Center was expensive, with high ceilings and strong air circulation, but the quality shows, as to this day it lacks the accumulative moisture problems often present in indoor pool buildings. In tribute, the building was later renamed the G. Worth George Residents’ Activity Center. The Health Center was built with quality patient care in mind, including efficient nursing stations, and was a welcome addition to the community, his family added.

Mr. George and his wife enjoyed their family vacations, holiday get-togethers, and seeing their extended family grow over the years, with their three children all marrying and having families of their own.

As a Certified Fund Raising Executive emeritus, Mr. George was elected president of the Inland Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and was selected as its fundraiser of the year in 1997.

He taught three courses in the University of San Francisco’s master of nonprofit administration program and was a faculty member at Chapman University, where he worked in the college’s award-winning organizational leadership master’s sequence.

He published the book, Fearless Fundraising for Nonprofit Boards, in 1996, which made the National Center for Nonprofit Boards’ bestseller list.

He was a popular speaker at conferences and workshops throughout the country, and, as of 2002, had presented at 11 national conventions. He also wrote a regular column in the local nonprofit center’s newsletter called Worthwhile Wisdom.

His wife Mary Lou died from cancer on November 22, 1997, 20 years to the day from his own death.

Mr. George retired from Pilgrim Place in 1998 after 25 years. He left the community in a strong financial position and with wonderful upgrades from his work over his tenure—a legacy to be proud of, his family shared.

He remarried Edella Erickson in 2001. He met Ms. Erickson—a wonderful woman who had been widowed years earlier—through their church, his family shared. The couple enjoyed many years in Claremont, remodeling their house, visiting family and friends, vacationing and hosting family get-togethers.

In 2013, the couple moved to the Chicago suburb of Naperville, Illinois, to be closer to Ms. Erickson’s extended family, and to live at Monarch Landing, a community well suited to help with Mr. George’s increasing medical care. There, he was loved for a smile that lit up the room, his family said. His most recent favorite activities included watching all the birds visiting his feeder, and driving through the Morton Arboretum, watching the seasons change, with a chocolate milkshake in his hand. He was a loving father, husband and friend, and will be greatly missed.

Mr. George is survived by his wife, Edella; three children, Diane Carpenter (Harry), Larry George (Kimberley) and Lynda Sheley (Dave); and five grandchildren, Chelsey Lemaster, Jeff Carpenter, Brianne Earwood (John), Gabriel George and Meganne Carpenter.

A celebration of Mr. George’s life will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, January 13 in the chapel of the United Church of Christ, 233 Harrison Ave., Claremont.


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