George Vincent Grune, a longtime friend and benefactor of Colonial Williamsburg, died peacefully on April 17th of complications following open heart surgery after a short stay in the Jacksonville Mayo Clinic Hospital surrounded by his loving family. He was a beloved husband, father and grandfather, dear friend and highly respected business leader. He was just months shy of turning 84.
George was the former Chairman and Chief Executive of the Reader's Digest Association from 1984 until his retirement in the late 90s. He joined the Digest in 1960 in advertising sales, and quickly was selected to manage key advertising offices in Pittsburgh, New York and internationally, and then subsequently was promoted to manage the books and recorded music division and various international businesses, and then named Publisher before being named Chairman and CEO in 1984.
George was born in White Plains and graduated from White Plains High School where he excelled in football, basketball and track. He then attended Duke University on a full football scholarship, and it was there he met his wife of 60 years, Betty Lu. Also while at Duke, George was chairman of the Student Judicial Board, editor of the Duke literary magazine, The Archive, member of ODK national honorary leadership fraternity and member of ATO fraternity. After graduating from Duke in 1952, he joined the Marine Corps where he actively served for two years and then in the Reserves until being honorably discharged in 1964 as a captain.
In addition to his corporate responsibilities, George was chairman of the Wallace Funds, foundations created by Digest founders Dewitt and Lila Wallace to support organizations benefiting education, youth, arts and culture, including the New York Zoological Society, Lincoln Center, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Public Library, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Colonial Williamsburg. He also served on the corporate boards of Avon, Best Foods, Chase Manhattan Bank and Federated Department Stores.
George was also awarded scores of high profile awards for his business and philanthropic leadership, including being named Publisher of the Year by the Magazine Publishers of America. He also received the National Medal of Arts from the White House and the Herbert Hoover Humanitarian Award from the Boys and Girls Clubs of America for his devoted service as its national chairman in the early 1990s. He also served on local YMCAs boards in New Brunswick, NJ, Pittsburgh, PA and Westport, CT; and the National Outward Bound board. Since his retirement and move to Ponte Vedra Beach, George has served on the boards of Jacksonville's Cummer Museum of Arts and the Jacksonville Symphony.
He is survived by his wife, Betty Lu, three sons and daughters-in-law and nine grandchildren: George, Jr. and Judy Grune with children Heather, Lindsey, and George III; Robert and Joan Grune with children Alexandra, Robert, Jr., and Jordan; and Steven and Nancy Grune with children Steven, Jr., Natalie and Kevin.
Services will be held at Palms Presbyterian Church in Ponte Vedra Beach on Wednesday, April 24th at 11am, with a reception following at the church. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the National Boys and Girls Clubs of America at 1275 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, GA 30309-3506 or online at www.bgca.org
, or to the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra at 300 Water St., Suite 200, Jacksonville, FL 32202 or online at www.jaxsymphony.org
Please visit our online Tribute at www.quinn-shalz.com.
Services under the care and direction of Quinn-Shalz, A Family Funeral Home, Jacksonville Beach, FL.