On Oct. 26, 2013, George C. Pickard, age 88, died at his Gainesville, Ga., residence following a period of declining health. Born in Durham, N.C., and raised in Chapel Hill, he was the son of the late Alfred A. and Margaret Killough Pickard. After the outbreak of World War II
, George joined the U.S. Coast Guard
and served on the USS Leonard Wood, a troop transport ship in the South Pacific that became a hospital ship after each invasion. Aboard the Leonard Wood, George participated in several of the biggest invasions in the Pacific including Eniwetok, Leyte, Saipan and Mindanao. He was always proud to report he crossed the equator 19 times during his service. He was honorably discharged in March 1946.
George's college education began at North Carolina State College (NCSC) where he was active in the Future Farmers of America. In 1947, at the NCSC 4th Annual Livestock Day, he won the First Premium Blue Ribbon for a calf he raised. George transferred to the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill where his father, "Mr. Alf", was the longtime superintendent of the grounds. In June 1953, George graduated from UNC with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education.
George was not the most scholarly of students but if a subject captured his interest, he would learn everything about it he could. Such were the mysteries of anatomy and physiology developed while he was a trainer at the UNC Department of Physical Education and Athletics. George was quite adept at taping, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of injuries. George was described as "a fellow with a breathtaking sense of humor, with tall tales so funny that charley horses and sprained ankles seem to melt away as patients laugh themselves into health." Anyone who knew George knows those words were an understatement then and even more so today.
But it was working as a volunteer fireman
at the Chapel Hill Fire Department that his lifelong passion for all things related to firefighting and fire engines was born. He was a regional representative for the American LaFrance fire engine manufacturer, selling, delivering and outfitting fire trucks throughout North and South Carolina, Florida and Georgia. During one of his visits to Gainesville, George was introduced to his future wife, Louise, by a fireman whose wife worked with Louise. They were married in 1958. Whenever George delivered a truck near Gainesville, he would spend the night at home and make his children neighborhood heroes by taking all the kids to the Dairy Queen for ice cream on the truck and to school the next morning. He ended his career as the owner/operator of Pickard Fire Engine Repair in Gainesville. Along the way, he was the Fire Chief in Decatur, Ga., and an instructor at the Georgia Fire Academy providing training to firefighters throughout Georgia to help satisfy state-mandated in-service training requirements. In 1997, George was given an appreciation plaque from the Northeast Georgia Fire Chiefs Association and, in 2013, he was named as an honorary Fire Chief of the Gainesville Fire Department.
George loved to know how all things worked and he would study, dismantle, test and reassemble until he learned how things worked, why they worked the way they did and how that knowledge could be used to improvise a repair and make improvement. George was known throughout the Southeast as being especially good at diagnosing and fixing problems in a fire engine pump. It has been said that he could listen to a problem pumper over the telephone, identify the problem and tell how to fix it.
Even after he retired, George loved the fellowship of people in the firefighting community and visited with them whenever he could. He never met a stranger. During his retirement, he had several haunts he regularly visited. Within minutes of meeting anyone, George started finding out who they were, who their family was and where they were from. Two of his very favorites were Kim Wells, his "foot rubbing lady," and "Dr. Amy" Green, his physical therapist. We will probably never know of all of the lives he and Louise touched by providing small gifts for their triumphs and a helping hand and encouragement in their struggles. George loved to entertain friends and family with tales of his life and stories heard from others which he was quite guilty of embellishing every time he retold them.
George is survived by Louise White Brewer Pickard, his wife of 55 years; his daughter, Sarah Pickard, Gainesville; daughter and son-in-law, Vicki Brewer and James D. Lester, Gainesville; son and daughter-in-law, Larry A. and Jane Bailey Brewer, Lakemont, Ga.; his sister, Margaret Pickard Sirvis, Chapel Hill, N.C.; his brother-in-law, John D. Newman, Gainesville; nieces, Lynn McCranie, Gainesville; Nan Christy, California; Jackie Maneglia, California; and Barbara Pickard Sirvis, Vermont; four grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
The family is grateful for the care and support provided to George and Louise by his nurse, Whitney Shumake, and the staff of Hospice of Northeast Georgia Medical Center, and the care providers, especially Doreen Taylor, from Southern Companions, who made the last months of George's life as pleasant and comfortable as possible.
Visitation for George will be Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., at Little-Davenport Funeral Home of Gainesville, followed by internment and graveside services at Alta Vista Cemetery at 2 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in George's memory to the Salvation Army; St. Paul United Methodist Church, 404 Washington St., Gainesville, GA 30501; or the
Those wishing to send online condolences may do so at www.littledavenport.com.
Little & Davenport Funeral Home, 355 Dawsonville Highway, S.W., Gainesville, GA 30501, is in charge of arrangements.