George Ilott (Old George)
May 30th, 1936 - May 5, 2008The eulogy was given, and kindly shared with us, by his eldest son Steven (young_steve):
My Father… Dad… George Edward Ilott, was born on May 30th, 1936, in the small company town of Powell River, on the coast of British Columbia.
His parents, George William Ilott and Lillian Annie Kieg welcomed their second son into a very tightly knit family. Many of their relatives… George’s grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts & uncles… the Ilott’s, the Keig’s, and the Hatch’s… all lived on the same street or very nearby. George’s dad, George William (also known as Bob) worked, as most men in Powell River did, for the Powell River Company (which was later to become MacMillan Bloedel).
George had a happy childhood. Along with his brothers, Robert and Fred, and his friends, he had the entire neighbourhood as a play area. In fact, the oceanfront beach was only a few hundred yards away, and many, many summer days were spent playing in, on, and near the ocean. The boys even had a rowboat that their father taught them to use.
At an early age, George gained his love of home building projects from both his father and grandfather. His father built their family home on Kamloops Street, and his grandfather was an accomplished Master Carpenter. Even right up until this year, Dad always seemed to have at least one building project underway.
At his childhood family home, helping out with the many chores was part of the daily routine. Cutting wood, working in the garden, helping his parents or relatives with whatever job required doing… Again, this was something that had a lasting influence on Dad. He always remained quick to offer assistance to others when asked or needed; and often silently just did jobs that needed doing, without the awareness of others.
George played soccer on a school team, the Westview Tigers; and was also a very proud and active member of the Royal Canadian Air Force Cadets. In 1951, he and his award-winning Air Cadet Corps were selected to go to Exhibition Park in Vancouver to serve as the Honour Guard for the Royal visit of Princess Elizabeth.
At the age of 15, George’s back problems began; for several years this was misdiagnosed as a slipped disk, and later discovered to be a degenerative form of spinal arthritis. George endured the pain however, and would not let his condition interfere with his view of life.
Also at this time, George’s older brother, Robert, left home to join the Air Force and was subsequently posted to Germany.
George and his younger brother Fred used to regularly accompany their father on evening and weekend trips out on the company tugboat, the Teeshoe. Their father was, by this time, a captain (or master) for the tug, and when taking the boys out, he used to get them to hide on the floor of the car so he could sneak them into the company property and onboard the tug.
At 18, George experienced a major shock to his life when his father, George William, was lost at sea in a tragic incident during a December storm. All 3 crew members of the Teeshoe were lost that day; but also on board was George’s younger brother Fred, then age 12. Miraculously, two days later, Fred found rescue for himself after washing ashore on Savory Island.
After graduating High School in Powell River, George moved to Vancouver to attend the University of British Columbia in the Faculty of Science. During this time, George lived with the Joughin’s, a family who shared their Manx heritage with George’s mother. Dad was proud of his heritage from the Isle of Man and, years later, also introduced me and my brothers to the Vancouver Manx Society. It is the national flag of the Isle of Man that is draped across the table at the front.
The sudden loss of his father had a profound effect on George. With his father gone and his older brother in Germany, George felt responsible for taking care of the family. The next year, after completing only two years of University, George decided to return to Powell River to help support his mom and younger brother.
To help provide for the family, George took a job in Powell River driving a Taxicab. I think this is where Dad refined his ability to communicate with others, no matter their situation or background. In those days, driving a taxi in a small town exposed you to pretty much everything that went on in society; and you needed to be part social worker, part tour guide, part ambulance driver, part police officer, and anything else that fit the situation.
George joined the local archery club in Powell River, known as the Haida Archers, and became a very adept archer himself. It is his favourite bow that is at the front. George had a steady hand and eye and could easily outshoot many people using rifles. However, he once angered his mother with one of these demonstrations, as, after a bullet merely made a dent, George shot an arrow through one of his mom’s cast iron frying pans.
At the age of 27, George had his first of several major medical complications from his spinal arthritis, known as Anklosing Spodylitis, and its associated treatments. On Christmas day that year, he collapsed from massive internal bleeding due to stomach ulcers and was rushed to hospital. Due to his rare blood type, extra units were urgently required to be flown up from Vancouver. Unfortunately, it was night and the Powell River Airport did not have lighting. In order to get a plane landed in time, the town’s taxicabs and several friends’ cars were used to line the runway, and turned on their headlights to light up the airstrip.
After recovering, George started working for MacMillan Bloedel in the Technical Department. George worked in the mill lab conducting tests on pulp & paper samples.
At the age of 28, George married Jean Peletier of Texada Island (just off the coast from Powell River), and moved into a small house in what is now known as the Historic Township area of Powell River. Their first son, Steven (that would be me) was born nine months later in January 1965.
In 1967, at the age of 30, a chance meeting led George to a new opportunity. While working collecting samples at the mill, George had been asked as to what he was doing. He responded that he was collecting samples for a test, but that the test was not going to work. After being asked why the test would not work, George responded with details and suggested a better method to produce results. His future boss offered him a position shortly thereafter in MacMillan Bloedel’s Central Technical Department in North Vancouver. With his intelligence and natural abilities, George flourished with the rise of the electronic age. His ability to creatively analyse and solve problems with often unorthodox methods provided him opportunities for recognition and advancement.
Another son, Donald, was born in 1967 in North Vancouver. With the growing family, success at work, and the wish to own a home, George purchased a unit in one of the first townhome complexes in British Columbia. So in 1969, we moved to the then rural farming community of Richmond.
Although George had to travel frequently for work to visit various MacBlo mills around the province, during his time at home Dad was a very devoted father. Don and I loved having him around when we were kids. Many of our favourite childhood memories were of trips with Dad. Every summer we would go camping somewhere in BC, and Dad would spend time teaching Don and I various outdoor skills. Even when Dad wasn’t intending to ‘teach’ us, his example left lasting impressions. When in the outdoors, Dad rarely sat down. He was always doing something, ensuring that no job was left undone. It wasn’t until years later that I realised it was much more comfortable for Dad to be active than it was to be still.
After Don and I joined the Boy Scouts of Canada as Wolf Cubs, Dad became very involved as well. Dad first started out as a parent helper on Cub Camps to Morris Valley. In his usual style, Dad awoke before anyone else in camp, and would usually have breakfast ready for everyone when they got up. Dad later joined Scouting himself and, over 10 years, held various positions in the Group and District levels.
In 1974 we moved to a larger, detached home in Richmond. This gave Dad even more projects to work on. Dad spend considerable time passing down construction skills that his father and grandfather had taught him, by helping Don and I rebuild an old Chicken Coop in the backyard and turning it into a kids’ clubhouse. Dad even setup an air-rifle range in the basement so he could teach us to shoot safely.
Dad joined the Richmond Rod & Gun Club with Don and me. Many weekend mornings we would go to the rifle range on Sea Island, where Dad would teach us to safely use our .22 calibre rifles. During these sessions, Dad would regularly amaze the dedicated target shooters, as he could shoot better standing than most people could when prone. Several times, while standing with a rifle, Dad would fire 10 bullets through the same hole.
During this time Dad joined the Research Division at MacMillan Bloedel, and was becoming more involved as a trouble-shooter for anything that would go wrong in the company’s paper machines.
In 1977, Dad was divorced from his first marriage and moved to his home for the next 30 years on Tinmore Place. In his new home, Dad also ensured that his aging Mother was cared for, by having her live with him until her passing in 1978.
In 1980, much to the surprise of most of the staff at MacBlo Research, Dad married his co-worker Dorrit Grumlose. As almost no one knew they were even dating, I’m sure that, at first, several people thought that this was another one of Dad’s elaborate practical jokes.
The next year, Dad and Dorrit decided to go on a vacation, far enough away that he couldn’t be called into work on short notice. So they went on a month long trip to some very remote areas of China that, at the time, were not oft visited by westerners.
At the age of 47, and suffering from a severe stoop due to the arthritis, Dad had his first of 2 major spinal surgeries to straighten his back. In all, Dad spent a better part of two years in and out of the Shaughnessy Hospital Spinal Cord Unit. However, these surgeries did give Dad a renewed ability to function and greatly improved the quality of his life for many years. He was also very proud of the fact that he was now tall enough to look eye-to-eye with at least one of his sons. That would be me, the short one.
Dad’s third son, Brian, was born in 1984, soon followed by Kevin the next year. Dad really loved having small kids around the house, and enjoyed spending time at home with the boys. I think he loved seeing them explore their world and seeing them learn new things.
Dad’s eldest son (me), was soon married and provided Dad with his first grandchild, Graham. As Graham was close in age to his uncles, Brian and Kevin, all the kids often would play together.
Dad’s career flourished over the years, as he became known as one the continent’s leading experts in his field of Vibration Analysis. Dad gained his own lab, a permanent assistant, and began travelling all over North America as a hired-out consultant to other companies in the Pulp & Paper industry.
With his compassion, integrity and openess, Dad also became a designated counsellor for the company’s employee assistance program. He could often be found in his office with someone pouring their heart out to him. Dad was known for providing guidance without judgement.
One of his most enjoyable trips was to Denmark, Norway, and Germany to attend a conference in Copenhagen at the Bruel & Kjaer headquarters. Dad also visited some northern European Pulp & Paper mills, and even had the hair-raising experience of driving on the Autobahn.
In 1998, with the closure or the Research Division, and the impending sale of MacMillan Bloedel to Weyerhauser, Dad opted to take early retirement at the age of 62.
Dad had become quite involved in computers and the growth of the internet. Among other things, Dad spent many years as the “wise old man” of the KickAS Ankylosing Spondylitis support site, often acting as a surrogate counsellor for others in need.
Dad was very proud to see me married to Jane, and even prouder still when he was given another two grandchildren, Callum and Emily. Although, the addition of a girl to this male-dominated family was quite a surprise. I remember calling Dad from the hospital and telling him that he had a granddaughter. His reply was “Are you sure?”.
In later years, Dad took full advantage of life at home. He took Dorrit, Brian and Kevin on several family holidays, often camping or visiting various parts of the province. Dad continued to have a building project on the go almost all the time, and enjoyed working in the garden, either growing vegetables or pampering his prized roses.
With his new grandchildren, Dad was again able to enjoy the love of children exploring and learning. Dad spent many hours on the floor with Callum, creating new building ideas with wooden blocks. And Dad was more than willing to accept pretend cups of tea from Emily, usually followed by a dance performance.
Over a span of several years, one of Dad’s most endeared projects, was providing assistance on the development and shooting of the film “Teeshoe: A Powell River Story”. This film about the effects of the sinking of the Teeshoe on the surviving children, including Dad and his brother Fred, was debuted to a sold out audience at the Powell River Film Festival in 2005. Dorrit and all of Dad’s sons travelled with Dad to Powell River for the event, and Dad was treated as a local celebrity for the entire trip.
Last year, Dad was very proud to welcome Tammy into the family as Don’s wife, although he was not able to travel to the wedding due to his declining health.
Over the last few years, Dad’s health slowly declined. His arthritis continued to deteriorate, in addition to continued stomach problems and prostate cancer. In spite of his failing health, Dad continued to provide a positive example for us all and would rarely let others see his pain. Eventually, Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimers Disease, and was recently admitted to hospital.
My Father… Dad… George Edward Ilott, passed on May 5th; but Dad will continue to live on in all of us. His compassion, his valuable advice, his example of strength in spite of chronic pain, his joy of his grandchildren, and his sense of humour…
These, among others, are the things we will remember.
…and this is how he will live on.
Rest well, Dad. I love you.
---George's Stories Part 1
and Part 2
George took pride in his unique signature of “Breb Assyl,” which he came up with after some research. Written in Manx Gaelic, the words translate to “Kick AS*!” A small selection of the wisdom and humour OldGeorge shared:On AS:
“Another method to stop the flashing pain when I sneezed was to wrap my arms around something and hold on tightly. Keeps the muscles from over-reacting. The neighbours always wondered why I was doing these strange things outside to the apple tree or the telephone pole.”
“My first 33 years of AS consisted of pain, pain and more pain every day with no break. Remission was a name I only associated with diseases like cancer. When I had my back surgery 17 years ago, the pain levels went down but could hardly be described as remission.”
“Fusing is bad enough on its own but fusing in a bent over position is a scary and chilling experience. Do everything you can to prevent it. Being able to always find money on sidewalks is much over-rated.”
“I am 67 years old and have had AS for just over 52 years. Since I still have AS that is trying real hard to fuse my neck and do have a lot of mechanical damage caused over the years by AS, my response to AS burning out is "Bullfeathers". I've been waiting over half a century for it to happen.”
“As the years have rolled by, I have come to accept that fatigue will always be a close companion and after accepting that, I have at least, gotten rid of the frustration that goes along with the fatigue.”On heros:
“Biggest hero - My Dad, whose last living act was to save my younger brother Fred from certain death.”On kicking AS:
“We have all types of AS sufferers here. Some, like yourself, are just starting to learn how to deal with it and others have been dealing with it for many years. This is my 50th year of having AS and I say that only to let you know that it is possible to have a life with this disease even if you may not think so at this time. Most of us have children and several of us have grandchildren and while some parts of our lives have been difficult, it doesn't mean that it has been hopeless.
It has been possible for most of us to make a life for ourselves and enjoy most of the basic things that, what we would call normal people, do. I have had a very exciting and enjoyable and full life and would love to do it all over again regardless of AS. You also can do this.
When we all visit this site every day or every couple of days, it feels to us like we are visiting our second family. Try it for awhile and you will see what I mean.”
“While you can learn a lot about AS here, I do hope you also have a good sense of humour because we like to have a bit of fun while we gain knowledge from each other.”On Men’s Forum:
“The womens forum is far more exciting. OldGeorgina keeps me updated on the fun they have over there.”On sleep:
“Normally, I can get to sleep by just talking to myself which is a good measure of how boring I can be.”On fellow kickers:
“Regardless of what anyone else says about you Steve (kidding), you are one hell of a nice guy.”“Dragonslayers are pretty tough guys.”On vacuuming:
“Re your dogs and men quotation, you'll be happy to know that Dorrit is bringing up our boys to never fear a vacuum cleaner. Every week, they are assigned which rooms they will vacuum and now they do it without her asking. Even I do the vacuuming every once in a while.”On chocolate:
“Yup, three different types of Mars Bars in Canada. Regular, Dark chocolate and a third which I haven't tried yet, smoked salmon I believe.”On bad habits:
“I have absolutely no bad habits either. I'm only posting to this because I do suffer from a continual urge to confess to something, but not today.”
“Ghosts, monsters, spirits, . . . . bullfeathers.”
“LOL means Little Old Lady. I would have thought that everyone knew that. It's the opposite to LOG or Little Old Gentleman.”
“I enjoy the mystery of what awaits us in life, even if it isn't always what we would have chosen.”
“My friend at work had a German Shepherd and took his dog to the Vet to see why the dog seemed to be in pain all the time. The next day, he really enjoyed telling me that his dog and I shared medical problems.
Since I was his boss, I barked at him to get back to work.”
Please visit this thread full of member condolences, posted by George’s wife Dorrit Ilott (BlueNorthern) on 5 May 2008, announcing the passing of our dear friend and long time cherished KickAS member:
OldGeorge, my dear husbandOld George