"Banana George" Blair
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AGE: 98 • New York City
After an illustrious career as an entrepreneur and world-class water ski champion "Banana George" born George Alfred Blair (Jan. 22, 1915) in Toledo, OH to Roy Robert and Georgia Gotshall Blair, died peacefully at home age 98 on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013.
He attended Miami University of Ohio where he was a member of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity. In 1939, George married Dorothy Spies of Detroit, and they raised four daughters in Shrewsbury, NJ.
His great business success was Hospital Portrait Service, based in Red Bank, NJ which offered the first photo of newborn babies in hospitals throughout the United States and in several foreign countries. Other successful ventures include Fogging Unlimited, pest control; the Boat, Ski, and Scooter Center; and Family Ski School.
In 1973, he married his second wife, JoAnne White. In 1974, he became a founder of Shrewsbury State Bank, which was acquired by Valley National Bank. He is a former commodore of the North Shrewsbury Ice Boat and Yacht Club and a dedicated supporter of the
It was as a show/barefoot/three-event water skier that George gained global recognition. He learned to water ski in 1955 while recovering from spinal fusion surgery. After mastering the sport, he opened two water ski schools in NJ, teaching thousands, including celebrities such as singer Donny Osmond.
At the age of 46, barefoot water skiing became his passion. A pioneer of the sport, George won numerous awards and established several world records. Dressed in his signature yellow wet suit, he became known as "Banana George." He was named Man of the Year by the American Barefoot Ski Club in 1982, 1986, 1987, and 1992. His barefoot ski act opened the show at Cypress Gardens after he relocated to Winter Haven FL. In 1991, he was inducted into the Water Ski Hall of Fame.
George was regarded as a great showman. His infectious enthusiasm for the sport spread throughout the world as he competed in international water ski tournaments and performed exhibitions at innumerable ProTour events and ski shows. George was also featured in many national television spots and commercials, and appeared with Regis, Jay Leno, Oprah, Letterman and others.
Inspired by his grandsons, he became an avid snowboarder at age 75 and was named Honorary Ambassador of Steamboat Springs, CO. Of his several entries in the Guinness Book of World Records, one is for being the oldest participant in two extreme sports - barefoot water skiing and snowboarding. He leaves behind a yellow wet suit, a global legion of adoring friends and fans, and his message to all - "Do It."
George's family is grateful to the expert and loving caregivers who made it possible to stay at home.
He was predeceased by his first wife, Dorothy Blair Manson, former Mayor of Shrewsbury, NJ. He is survived by his devoted wife of 40 years, JoAnne Blair of NYC; four daughters, Donna Blair of Forsyth, GA, Georgia Blair and Alan Lopez of Shrewsbury, Carrie Blair of Middleburg, VA, and Robin Blair of Shrewsbury. His four grandsons are Robert Blair of GA, Marcus Turrisi of NC, Theodore Fetter of VT, and Oliver Fetter of NYC. There are four great-grandchildren.
Share your reflections: https://www.facebook.com/BananaGeorgeBlair. Donations (in lieu of flowers) to the George Blair Ambassador of Skiing Scholarship. Go to the American Water Ski Education Foundation (501c3) website, George Blair Memorial Page, http://www.waterskihalloffame.com/donate.html or mail to ASWEF 1251 Holy Cow Rd, Polk City FL 33868. Arrangements by John E. Day Funeral Home, 85 Riverside Ave., Red Bank. Funeral home visitations are from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21 and from 10 a.m. to 12 noon Tuesday, Oct. 22. Cemetery service immediately following.
John E Day Funeral Home
85 Riverside Ave
Red Bank, NJ 07701
Published in Asbury Park Press on Oct. 20, 2013