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George C. Vail

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George C. Vail Obituary
VAIL, GEORGE C.; of Audubon, New Jersey; died on December 17, 2013, from complications associated with aging. For the past three years, George was a resident of the New Jersey VA Home in Vineland. He lived a full and happy life, understood when his life was near its end, and accepted his impending death gracefully. George was born in Ecorse, Michigan, a rough and tumble depression era steel town "downriver" from Detroit. He was one of five siblings raised in meager circumstances during a very difficult time. Although he showed an early artistic aptitude, the main focus of life for him as a boy and young man was seeking ways to help his family. Part of that sacrifice for George was the need to leave high school at age 16 to seek work and find direction. During the next four years, George worked at several different jobs that presaged the unique and multi-faceted intellect that he possessed. Despite the lack of formal education, George demonstrated an enormous capacity to learn solely from reading. He voraciously consumed books on art, literature, history, geology, electronics, and mechanics. George also met the woman he would marry, Mary Ann Snyder, during this time. They were a young couple very much in love and doing their best to figure out how to face a future during tough economic times and an all-consuming war. Kathleen was the first child born from their union, followed over the next 14 years by Maureen, Terrence, Althea, Cynthia, and Scott. In what would be one of the defining periods of George's life, he entered the US Army during World War II and was sent to New Guinea and the Philippines. In addition to his role as an infantryman, George provided his unit with hand-drawn maps and sketches depicting scenes of the many battles that were fought. He was wounded during combat and received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service. One of George's proudest accomplishments during his military time was achieving the rank of Master Sergeant. After the war, George returned to Michigan, where he began working for Diamond Power Specialty Corporation, a maker of industrial boilers. It was a transfer within Diamond Power that resulted in George and Mary Ann relocating to Audubon, which would remain their home for the rest of their lives. Besides holding down a full-time job and personally doing extensive construction on the tiny Oak Street house that he and Mary Ann had managed to buy, George's innate knowledge and talents began to emerge full bore. He spent his nights and weekends immersed in the arts that included painting, sculpting, calligraphy, woodworking, jewelry making, and teaching. Outside of his artistic endeavors, he designed and received patents for industrial boilers; received his professional mechanical engineers license; returned to school and received his Bachelor Degree; founded two local newspapers, The Suburban and the Oaklyn Element; was a ham radio operator who assembled his own transmitter/receiver; and hand-built guitars late into his life. In 1960, George, Mary Ann, and their 6 children moved into what the locals referred to as the Mansion House in Audubon. At the time, the two hundred year old Mansion House was in total disrepair with scores of broken windows, decrepit plumbing, and an archaic electrical system. Through George's and Mary Ann's long-term dedicated efforts, the Mansion House was slowly brought back from the brink, and became their family's loving home for over fifty years. George served tirelessly for many years as a member, and as President, of The Batsto Citizens Committee. He was very involved with The Camden County Historical Society and maintained an intense interest in the history of Southern New Jersey. George provided forensic sculpting's to the Camden County Prosecutors Office to assist in identifying unknown persons. He was active in the Audubon Pioneers Club, twice ran for local office in Audubon, and was a member of the American Legion Murray-Troutt Post. What George may be best remembered for were the qualities he brought to those who knew him as a teacher. There are legions of individuals who benefited from his practical, straightforward, and often direct style of teaching. George's teaching assignments included fine art instruction at the Haddonfield Art League and Jewish Community Center, art at Leesburg State Prison, GED at Gloucester County Prison, mechanical and architectural drawing at Ryder Technical Institute, commercial art at Gloucester County Institute of Technology, and painting, drawing, and computer art at Gloucester County College. There are also those students who found their way to George's beloved Carriage House Studio where art, conversation, and humor often shared equal billing. In appreciating George's life, it is important to remember him as a son, brother, husband, father, uncle, grandfather, great grandfather, and great great grandfather. He survived a terrible war and outlived most of his contemporaries. He could be distant to those closest to him, yet loved to rock babies to sleep and surprise kids with pockets full of candy. He could be profane, but notably articulate. He was an intractable homebody rarely leaving the confines of South Jersey, yet someone who knew significant things about the world through books. He was often cantankerous, but had a soft spot for those less fortunate in life and who frequently ended up being taken under his wing. George was a good man with enormous talent. His passing saddens all those who knew him. George is survived by his 6 children; 11 grandchildren 13 great grandchildren; 1 great great grandchild; many nieces and nephews residing in Michigan; and his remaining sibling, Betty Pasik of Allen Park, MI. A Memorial Service for George will be held at Henry Funeral Home located at 152 West Atlantic Ave., Audubon on January 3, 2014 from 5 to 8 p.m. followed by a Remembrance Gathering at the American Legion Murray-Troutt Post #262, 20 Chestnut Street, Audubon. George will be Laid to Rest in Michigan at a later date. The Vail family wishes to thank the staff at the New Jersey VA Home for the attention they devoted to George, especially those who provided his individual care with patience and tenderness. A lover of trees and historic places, George asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his memory to the Batsto Citizens Committee, Inc. (BCCI, 4110 Nesco Road, Hammonton, NJ, 08037) for natural and historical landscape restoration.
Published in Heritage on Dec. 29, 2013
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