Hearing about a very dear friend and mentor’s sudden death this weekend, especially after seeing him moving sprightly around a conference, hours before, I and the rest of my work colleagues were in shock.
But what came with this outpouring of grief was so much affection for this unassuming man who spent his life helping others, was someone who did not care for airs and graces despite the titles bestowed upon him as he progressed in his career as a researcher who loved research, he believed in true collaboration and that everyone should be heard, a true listener and a champion of innovation and its unhindered commercialisation.
I saw a selfless man who was forever humbled by others, making every effort to get on top of a constantly growing mound of work and responsibility to support others. He worked day, dawn and night always striving to try harder, work faster and not disappoint others. He didn’t just hear you, he listened. He always sought feedback to check he was providing what people wanted and that he had accomplished it in the best possible way.
For my part, I spent a lot of my time trying to support him get through or past his burden, by frequently taking some of the workload on myself, finding others to assist him or listening and providing advice/suggestions where useful. It was always a privilege to be able to help him. He was a great man beset with responsibility and yet he still took the time to personally speak with people and respond to them.
If George was here now he would have been totally overwhelmed at the tributes coming back this week from everyone who knew him whether for a few days or a lifetime. Work colleagues have been shattered for days and break down into tears spontaneously. I can only imagine the heartbreak for his wife, family and close friends.
The words to describe George that came up most frequently from so many in response to his death other than the obvious shock, dismay and disbelief included conscientious, well-informed, insightful, intelligent, contributor, warm and engaging smile, sincerity, enthusiasm, engaging, modesty, wisdom, generosity, well respected, highly valued, sharing, valuable insights, knowledge, experience and time for others.
As I and many others think how they could have supported him better to not have this tragedy occur at such a young age, or recall their last conversations or regrets, I can’t help thinking, George really had no idea just how much his life and passion meant to others. He didn’t realise the tremendous impact he’s had, how well he is regarded or the massive hole he is now leaving.
I don’t think any of us really know what others truly think of us or how much we mean to them, but perhaps we should, before we pass on and all they can do is speak to the sky and hope we hear them.
I was very happy to know that as George left the last event he attended – the CRC for Low Carbon Living (CRCLCL) Forum – he received plenty of positive feedback on the dynamic way he chaired his panel and the role he played on the Board of the CRCLCL.
What have I learnt out of this deeply sad experience is, if you value or admire a colleague’s work, let them know. Now!
Goodbye to a truly inspirational man, George, we greatly admired your work and your passion.