George Rief passed away on September 8, 2018, at his home in Sequim, Washington, surrounded by family. He was 95. He had been active up until only a few weeks prior to his death, when an infection put him in the hospital and his always-strong heart began to slow down. Various combinations of his children and their spouses, his nephew and spouse, his grandchildren and great grand-grandchildren were with him every minute during the last month of his life.
George was born March 10, 1923, in Seattle, Washington, the only child of George and Melda Marie Martel Rief. He grew up in a house (still standing) on Aurora Avenue and graduated from Lincoln High School in 1941. It was at Lincoln High School that he met the only love of his life, Elinor Batchelor, and they were married during wartime, on October 27, 1944.
George was in the Boys Scouts of America while growing up, achieving the highest level, Eagle Scout, while a teenager. Also, as a teenager he was a member of the Seattle Chapter of DeMolay for four years, rising to the highest rank, Grand Counselor.
George served in the Navy during WWII and, at the age of 22, became the skipper of a PT boat, PT-352, stationed in the Philippines. Early in 1945 he had received orders to be among the first wave of Allied Forces to attack mainland Japan and was only waiting for the “go.” The orders were abruptly cancelled, “something about a bomb” was all his crew knew.
Prior to the war George was in the pre-med program at the University of Washington. When he returned to the UW he enrolled in the study of pharmacy. The economic practices of the pharmacy industry however, did not coincide with his own beliefs and so he, instead, became a teacher. He taught high school science, primarily chemistry, for 29 years, first at Bothell High School, then Bellevue High School, and then Sammamish High School, retiring in 1978. His influence on hundreds of students is immeasurable. Many of them kept in touch through the years.
Georges’ passions (in addition to his family and teaching) were numerous. He had minored in botany at the University of Washington, and enjoyed the local flora, acquired and raised various plants, eventually building (himself) two greenhouses at his residence in Bellevue, and filling them with cactus, orchids, palms and many other varieties of plants.
In the mid-1950’s he aspired to climb the 14,410 ft. Mt. Rainier, trained himself to do so, and accomplished this feat in 1957.
He enjoyed boating and in the spring of 1960, when his four children were still very young, he and Elinor bought an old 32-foot wood-hull cabin cruiser, and the six of them (along with two dogs – one being a German Shepard, and occasionally one or two cats) would spend several weeks each summer exploring the American and Canadian San Juan Islands, mooring or anchoring in a variety of locations, making it as far north as Campbell River and Princess Louisa Inlet.
Upon retiring from teaching George and his youngest son, Tom, began a wood-working company, and for twenty years created custom furniture under the name of The Northwest Woodcraft Corporation. The business grew from its beginnings in the loft of an old barn to an industrial manufacturing shop in Monroe, Washington, and three outlet stores. George enjoyed the hands-on work, himself specializing in making beautiful hardwood clocks, but mostly he enjoyed working with his son.
At the age of 69, having still more energy and passion for life, George took private pilot lessons, earning his license in 1993. Over the following ten years he and Elinor and Buddy, their Boston Terrier, (and at times children and grandchildren) spent many enjoyable days flying around Western Washington, not renewing his license only when they moved to Sequim in 2005.
George diligently took a two-to-three mile walk every morning since retiring, usually accompanied by his dog. He continued to walk each morning while living in Sequim, where he made the acquaintance of many fellow walkers and dog owners (and a couple of bicyclists who slowed down enough to say hello).
George, being a man of science, found it hard to come to terms with the belief in a Creator of the Universe – let alone the Christian belief of a Savior Who would love and care for him. But one day, almost two years ago, George did come to this conclusion. After weighing all the data he had collected and experienced over his lifetime, he acknowledged that he did want peace, the world could not have just happened on its own, and he found his way to have hope and belief in God and trusted and accepted Jesus as his Savior. The peace that overcame was immediate and very personal and palpable for him. His countenance changed. That peace sustained him and is very comforting to his family.
George was an inspiration to all his family, and certainly more than ever when he stoically and bravely fought and beat cancer twice: prostate cancer when he was 68 and larynx cancer at age 84.
Each of his children, and each of his grandchildren, and certainly everyone who had the good fortune of knowing George Rief, has special and treasured memories of him. His son, Tom, has said that George was not only his Father, but his very best friend.
His only granddaughter Jaime wrote – “I have hope that one day, I will see him again. I will be on the receiving end of his hugs once again, the kiss on the forehead, and the embrace around my neck as he looks me in the eye, with tears in his own, telling me how much he loves me and how proud he is of me. Until then, I will try to live my life following his example. I'll eat my oatmeal, go for my walks, love my family and tell them so, learn something new every day, always wave goodbye, and be grateful for the life I've been given. Thank you for being my Grandpa, I will miss you always.”.
George is survived by his wife of almost 74 years, Elinor: sons and daughters-in-law, Paul and Gina, John and Susan, Tom and Missy, daughter Janet; Grandchildren Joe, (Casandra), Jaime Brocklesby, (Josh), Michael, (Heather), Joshua, Carl, Justin, (Shannon), David, Benjamin, Matthew, (Jenny), Jeremy, (Diana), Adam, and Matthew; And Great-grandchildren Elizabeth, James, George, Jenna, Josephine, Evelyn, McKenna, Owen, Aaron, Megan and Jayce; And nephew Marshall Batchelor and his spouse Lynda, and their family.
George was an unpretentious, principled, honest, warm-hearted and caring man, and he will be missed by everyone who knew him.
A remembrance and celebration of George’s life will be held on Sunday, September 30, 2018 starting at Noon and is open to all. It will be held at the Juan de Fuca Cottages 182 Marine Drive, Sequim, Washington.