George Charles Griess died peacefully in his sleep at home on November 23, 2019, after an extended illness, just one month after celebrating his 89th birthday with his loving family.
He was born in Browns, Illinois, son of George Griess and Matilda E. (Raber) on October 21, 1930.
George, "Daddy", "George Charles", "Uncle Charlie", "Skinny Griess" was overflowing with charm, kindness, grace and life. An athletic basketball player in high school lead to a full scholarship on the Michigan Technological University basketball team in Houghton, Michigan and his lifelong focus on exercise. Until a few years ago, he walked for his health 2-5 miles a day. He even got an electric bike at age 79!
After he got his Civil Engineering degree, his Air Force ROTC commitment took him to Atlanta where he served as an honored member at the highest security clearance in the U.S. Air Force, during the Cuban missile crisis.
George worked for Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Company and Trunkline Pipeline Company in Kansas, Illinois and Texas for most of his career. A three-year assignment with Internationale Gas Maatschappij, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell and Standard Oil of New Jersey moved his family to The Hague, Netherlands, where he managed the development of the major gas trunkline into the European continent.
His lifelong avocation was fine woodworking. He mastered the art of Windsor chairs and created several styles selling them through his company, Windsors by George. He demonstrated the techniques at museums and craft fairs. He loved attending meetings and classes with his friends in the Woodworkers Club. His chairs and pieces are cherished by all who own them.
He was a distributor for 25 years with Nature Sunshine Herbs, even getting a phone call from the president of the company congratulating and thanking him for his service!
When he retired to Bella Vista, Arkansas, he decided playing golf was not enough for him and charmed the manager of the "100 store" of Walmart where he soon was known as "Assembler George" working in the back workshop assembling anything that needed to be put together - that is how he fell in love with his "E-zip" electric bike! He was the person that got Momma her job as a "greeter". The two would meet for lunch everyday causing everyone "talk about them".
He was a charter member of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, supporting and enjoying the exhibits, the beautiful grounds and the wonderful restaurant.
His infectious charm, incomparable character and humorous outlook on life will never be forgotten. We will always be looking for that handsome man in the Stetson hat.
His loving spouse of 60 years, Marcia D. (Storckman) proceeded him in death in 2014. He was always willing to play along with her fun escapades - Lumber-jack George with Marcia, the Christmas Tree; the escort with the clown, a childcare specialist with Nanny Marcia and co-host with new neighbor leagues in the Netherlands, Kansas, Illinois, Texas and Arkansas.
He was the proud father of Jennifer Griess Brennan (Marty Colborne), Stephanie S. Griess, Julia E Griess and Jill M. Griess; and grandfather of George E. Brennan. He was loved by many nieces, nephews and grand-nieces and grand-nephews. His cherished "big" brother, Ernest Frank Griess, proceeded him in death in 2011.
A visitation will be held at Short Funeral Home, 527 N. Mulberry Street, Mt. Carmel, Illinois on Saturday, November 30, 2019 at 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM. A Memorial Service will be held at Friedens United Church of Christ, R.R. #1, Browns, Illinois, on Sunday, December 1, 2019 at 2:00 PM with interment to follow at the Friedens Church Cemetery.
He requested to be buried at the Friedens Church Cemetery because his Great Great Grandfather, Jacob Salwechter was a founding member of the Friedens United Church of Christ.
Please make donations in his honor to Friedens United Church of Christ Cemetery Fund, care of Friedens United Church, R.R. #1, Browns, Illinois 62818. Envelopes will be available at Short Funeral Home and the church the day of service.
Condolences may be made online at www.short-cunninghamfh.com
Short-Cunningham Funeral Home is honored to serve George’s family.
Daddy's Eulogy 12-1-19 by Jennifer Griess Brennan
I want to start by reading the email that my boss sent me after I called to tell him that Daddy died peacefully in his sleep:
You have my deepest, heartfelt sympathies. I’ve so enjoyed all your vibrant stories of your time at home with a father overflowing with brilliance, charm, kindness, grace and life. The pictures you shared always brought me flashes of joy; and the energy you brought back from your visits have lifted all of us. You were truly lucky to be blessed with such a wonderful family – forged, no doubt, by your father’s incomparable character.
Nathan, my boss, never had the opportunity to meet Daddy; so for him to have that opinion of him speaks volumes of the energy that Daddy spread into the world.
George Charles Griess, also known as "Daddy", "George Charles". "Uncle Charlie", "Charlie" and "Skinny Griess".
The most often used words to describe him are 'charming', 'inspirational', 'humorous', 'hardworking' and 'handsome'. Travel cross country on a train with him to witness those descriptions in action! I got that wonderful opportunity. What a trip to remember!
He cared for his family with all his heart and soul. He taught us valuable lessons, of respecting each other. I remember calling one of my sisters a "toad" at the dinner table as a child. Daddy jumped all over me because of the lack of respect that using that word meant. He firmly said, "You might as well have called her a 'son of a bitch' with the intent that you used! We must respect each other - that is the most important thing in life!"
He had the patience of Job. He HAD to, living in a house with 5 women AND a female dog, "Sweetie". After "Sweetie" died and all of us girls finished college and moved away, Momma and Daddy adopted 2 male cats, "Sly Guy" and "Patches". Daddy finally got some male companionship at home. Whenever I called home and asking Momma where Daddy was. I always chuckled when she would say, "Oh, he's down in his workshop with "the boys".
During that 6 day round trip cross country train adventure with him, He told me so many wonderful stories about why he made his decisions for life. One was about a man in town that impressed Daddy because the gentleman had so many talented daughters and sons. Each had a different talent or skill that they mastered.
He said that he decided that that was what he wanted to do in his lifetime. He was so proud to tell me that he loved that each of "his girls" also were so different, but SO TALENTED where ever they put their focus.
I have never stopped talking since I started at 18 months of age, hence - public speaker. When I fell in love with plants and got my degrees in Horticulture and Botany, Daddy loved living vicariously through my "green" adventures, even starting to vegetable garden again when we were transferred back to Illinois. With his many years of managerial skills, he was my best advisor and therapist when I served as the president of the board of the Perennial Plant Association.
Stephanie, learned her patience from Daddy. I KNOW that is what made her the crackerjack manager that she was in the apparel manufacturing business world. She got Daddy's engineering analytical mind. He was able to look at a project, analyze it, take it apart in his mind and complete it step by step. She got that, AND she got his creativity, also. His was with wood. Hers is with apparel AND bead work. Both of them are geniuses with their hands!
Julia got his charm, good looks AND creativity. From fine artist to creative designer to top notch sales rep for printing companies to real estate and now cutting edge health care products. Hard-working and organized, just like Daddy!
And, saving the best for last, Jill
All of us owe Jill so much love and thanks for the dedication and sacrifice that she made to care for Daddy, especially in the last 5 years after Momma died. Momma's last message to all of us was, " Girls, take care of Daddy!" We all did in our own way, but Jill was incredible. I loved when Daddy told me that he and Jill were good "room mates" sharing his house. The peace that she provided for us other 3 daughters was phenomenal. I live in Chicago, Stephanie was in Philadelphia and Julia in San Diego. We will never be able to repay Jill for her dedication to helping Daddy. She kept him young taking him to current movies and listening to current music. She even downloaded them on his iPhone! Speaking of his iPhone - he texted! I will brag about him texting forever!
Did you all know that there is a UFO symposium in NW Arkansas every year. Jill enjoyed attending and listening to the speakers. She got Daddy to attend for several years. As Daddy got older, he did not attend as many presentations (as you might imagine, there were some "interesting" (AKA "odd" characters there). Daddy would just go to the cafe and enjoy his tea and "people watch". One time he was at a table next to a well-dressed gentlemen having a cup of coffee. "Friendly" Daddy looked over to start a conversation and said, "You and I are probably the most normal people here, aren't we?" The gentleman answered, "Well, actually, I am the president of the organization." Oops! They laughed and eventually agreed that Daddy's comment was really true.
When Daddy could no longer plant or tend his vegetable garden, Jill turned into the daughter with the skills of a trained horticulturist. She researched on line and would call me with questions. Daddy loved sitting near the garden offering advice. He remembered that his grandfather always planted spinach and lettuce here in southern Illinois on Valentines Day, so Jill did, too. She would send me the photos of her results. I used her designs and combinations in my professional lectures! Daddy got to enjoy his garden because of Jill's hard work and creative energy. All of this in between her part time jobs.
I do not want to omit her role as "Dr. Jill". She was the one to find herbal solutions to keep Daddy more comfortable. She was the one to call the ambulance or take him to the emergency room. Cool, collected and protective; asking questions and not taking empty answers from medical staff. She was the warrior who protected Daddy. We all need a "Dr. Jill" in our lives. Daddy was so appreciative as were all of us girls. Thank you, Jill. He enjoyed life and we enjoyed Daddy 5 more years because of YOU!
Daddy's technique of keeping us together even though we lived on opposite coasts of the United States, was to read our horoscopes from his newspaper to us every morning. Everyone of would call him every morning to find out what the day would bring. On mornings when I could not call at 9:00AM (that was my time), I would text Daddy that I needed to call at lunch time. If my horoscope was good or bad, he would either text me or call and leave a message, "Jenny, you need to hear this one. Call me when you can." He was a very spiritual man, but, like the coincidences that all of our horoscopes revealed. We all got to the stage of needing to hear each others reading and mostly Daddy's Libra forecast.
Back to Daddy's passions:
II. His Avocation
He was a skilled and avid wood worker. He made the dining room table that we dined at for years. He mastered the art of making Windsor Chairs, using 3 different varieties of wood for the legs, the seat and the arms (which required steaming to be bent into the beautiful arched forms). He had many friends in the Woodworkers Club and loved the master classes to learn the detailed techniques. He started his business, Windsors by George, and demonstrated those techniques at museums and craft fairs. People who purchased one of his chairs valued them like fine art. Daddy valued his tools and his workshop. He was such a realist about them and worried that we "girls" would not know what to do with them after he passed.
We thank his great nephew, Gunnar Griess for valuing Daddy's tools and moving them to set up a workshop of his own. Daddy was so proud and relieved that his tools have a safe home and will be used like he would use them.
The majority of his career was as a civil engineer with Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Company and Trunkline Pipeline Company. His emphasis on safety due to the role that he played in that industry influenced all of us. I still never start a trip without doing the "safety walk" around my car before getting into the driver's seat! He had lifetime friendships with his co-workers in Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and Illinois
When he took a position with The Internationale Gas Maatschappij, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell and Standard Oil of New Jersey, the whole family moved to The Hague, Netherlands. He managed a team of European engineers whom developed and built the first natural gas trunkline into the European continent. He had staff from Holland, Germany, Spain and France. There would be 5 different languages spoken in our living room whenever he would have all the men and their wives over to our home.
It was a 3 year adventure that I will always be thankful to him for. We saw parts of the world as kids that many people would never have the chance to see in a lifetime.
After he retired, they moved to Bella Vista, Arkansas and built their dream house. When Daddy got disgusted with the golf scene in Bella Vista, he got employment as "George the Assembler" at Wal-Mart. He was behind the scenes doing his craft of taking appliances and bicycles out of their boxes and "assembling" them. When Momma got bored being alone at home, he charmed the store manager into hiring her
as a "greeter" at his same store. They would ride together to work and meet for lunch every day. Momma joked that she "slept with the right man" in order to get her job at Walmart.
He was devoted to her. They were "soul-mates" and best friends. They celebrated 61 years together. We all should look up to their example of the dedication and work it takes to have a rewarding life together.
Daddy was always the "straight-man" to all her fun and crazy costumes.
Her clown was amazing. He dressed in a matching tee-shirt as her handler, lugging the trinkets that "the clown" handed out to the kids of all ages that they approached. I was always fearful that they would "run off and join the circus".
I think their best team act was "The Christmas Tree Lady and Lumberjack George".
Whether being a "fresh" tree and pinching someone or "branching out", they brought seasonal joy to all that they greeted. Her first costume was rented, but she was able to talk Stephanie, the production manager at a courtourier into using 50 yards of green crinoline to make an even more realistic Christmas tree. Daddy was in a red and black plaid shirt and vest. They loved surprising people in schools, nursing homes or places of business that she and Daddy frequented throughout the year. They even made appearances at Daddy's best friends Christmas Tree Farm every year.
When Momma died, I got an email that described them as the George Burns and Gracie Allen of this day and age. The week before she passed was their 61st anniversary. She was scheduled for another series of hospital tests, so I did not try to call them. I sent a fun card. When I got home from work, I had a message with their happy voices. Momma started with, "Hi, Jenny, we LOVE your card! But, Daddy, should we tell her that we never really got married?" I could tell in his voice that he was surprised to hear her say that, but in his wonderful "straight man" style, he replied; "No, Honey, I don't think we should tell her yet". Always the straight man when he was with her. They even starred in a YouTube video as a gorgeous Halloween witch and warlock.
IV. Granting his final wish
During the past 5 years, Daddy requested that we make sure that we make the arrangements for him to be buried in the cemetery of the church that his Great, Great Grandfather helped to found. We thank all of the people here at Friedens United Church of Christ for granting his final wish. I made one phone call and it was as if the Angels flew down from Heaven and granted his final wish. Our family thanks you for opening your hearts to us. Thank you for helping to bring Daddy home.
V. In summary
I would like to read another quote that a dear friend sent me this week:
"When you are sorrowful, look into your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight."
Let's all celebrate this wonderful man together with our stories, hugs, smiles and only a FEW tears.
I know I will always be looking for that Handsome man in the Stetson Hat!
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of George Charles Griess, please visit our floral store.
Friedens United Church of Christ Cemetery und
R.R. #1, Browns IL 62818