We celebrate the life of George Durr. As much as we grieve to see him go, we must remember these famous words “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.”
George, or “Georgie,” was good to the bone. Genuine, thoughtful, humble, patient, sincerely good. A real mensch, as his mother-in-law referred to him. He was a teacher for 38 years, a true gentleman, a sharp dresser, an ultramarathon runner, a classic rock admirer, a world traveler, accepting of anyone and everyone, an absolute sports nut, an exceptional listener, an avid reader, a lover of margaritas, craft beer, and 50/50 martinis (don’t forget the blue cheese olives). He was also a lover of people. People who loved him back, so much that our hearts are cleaved in half to see George leave this world so soon.
George was born in New Britain, Connecticut, on May 28, 1946, to Mary (nee Magri) and George Durr, Sr. The Durr family, including George’s younger brother Bob, later moved to Southington, Connecticut, where he spent his formative years. His sports fanaticism began early, and he lettered in baseball, football, and basketball in high school. He was an exceptional athlete, and made it look easy. He earned all-state honors in football, and was granted a scholarship to play football at Central Connecticut State University.
After graduating in 1968, George was recruited by the Oxnard Elementary School District in California. So, he and three friends piled into an old Saab and drove across the country to start their new lives in California. George’s first teaching stint was at Rose Avenue Elementary School where he taught sixth grade. He then found his true calling as a kindergarten teacher at Kamala and Christa McAuliffe Elementary Schools.
In 1970, he married Jean, who he lived with by the beach in Oxnard. After their divorce, George met Ann, a reading teacher at Kamala Elementary, who he later married in 1982. Ann, George, and Ann’s son Greg, who George helped raise from the age of five, all lived together in Camarillo, California.
George was an amazing stepfather, tapping into his love of sports to serve as an assistant coach for Greg’s youth teams. At any of Greg’s games, George’s presence was always made known through his unique, celebratory whistle.
Sports were in George’s blood. He was a diehard Boston Red Sox fan from birth, and a faithful LA Clippers supporter, holding season tickets starting in 1984. His devotion was ever present, and he always sported his teams’ gear to prove it. His other sports-related passion was golf, and he loved to play with his many golf groups.
In his late 30s, George picked up a new sport: long distance and trail running. Eventually becoming an ultramarathon runner, he ran a total of 50 marathons (including the 100th anniversary of the Boston Marathon), ten 50-mile races, and three 100-milers. He never missed his early morning run with his beloved Camarillo running group. Upon hearing of George’s running feats, a kindergarten student of his famously asked, “Mr. Durr, don’t you have a car??”
He was good with kids, grandparents, strangers, you name it; he made you feel heard and important. He was more likable than you could fathom a person could be. He was that good, that gentle, that kind.
Aside from a shared devotion for teaching, Ann and George loved to travel, their favorite destination being Kaui, Hawaii. Their life together was very social, as they had many friends, and always enjoyed hiking and the great outdoors. Sadly, Ann was diagnosed with breast cancer and passed away in 2006. During her illness,George was a devoted caregiver and offered unwavering love and support. He grieved her loss dearly. After Ann’s passing, George found solace with his many close friends, attending sporting events and hitting the pavement with his morning running group.
George was also active in the Channel Islands Chapter of the California Teachers Association. Here he met Linda, who was the president of the Santa Barbara Teachers Association. They were serendipitously seated next to each other at the annual National Education Association convention in Orlando, Florida. George and Linda had a whirlwind start to their relationship: In July 2007, they retired, got married, and started their honeymoon in Europe — all within a week.
From that point forward, it was non-stop adventuring around the world for those two young-at-heart retirees. In 2012 George and Linda moved to San Diego, California. He always said he wished they had moved sooner, as he loved the exciting downtown city life, as well as the nearby breweries (George and his brother Bob shared a deep affinity for craft beer). George and Linda lived in a high-rise with a killer view. Each morning when George went out for coffee, he gave his famous whistle for Linda to hear 12 floors up, from blocks away.
George and Linda shared a joyful, laughter-filled 13 years together. Their favorite pastimes included wine tasting, hiking, theater, volunteering, and sporting events, to name a few. Together, they lived every moment to the fullest.
Ever positive, ever hopeful, George was never even grumpy. His presence wasn’t loud nor did he demand attention — he filled a room with a sense of ease and contentment. He just wanted to enjoy life. And he really did.
In 2018, George was diagnosed with small cell bladder cancer, a rare disease. He went through nearly two years of treatment, many ups and downs, all without complaining. He fought and fought and fought. Until the final months of his life, George and Linda managed to continue their adventurous ways, their last journey being to Portugal and Northern Spain. He told Linda during some of his final weeks, “Whatever happens, we had a good run.”
His positive demeanor and ever-present happiness were a calming influence for everyone around him. He passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by loved ones, on May 15, 2020. He leaves behind his wife Linda Durr, his brother Bob Durr, stepson Greg Erickson, Greg’s wife Renee, his niece Emily Durr and nephew Jason Durr (who received George’s beloved 1969 red MG), Linda’s children Danielle and Blake Garland, many relatives in Connecticut, and the lights of George’s life, his grandchildren Kylie, Makenna, and Savanna Erickson, for whom he always had patience, love, and a good story to read.
If we all strive to bring a little more George, a little more good, into the way we move through the world, we’d see life the way he did, as something to be cherished and celebrated. We’ll have a margarita for you, Georgie. We are forever grateful to have had you for all the days you were with us — you will be missed. We’ll try not to cry, and remember to smile, because it happened.
George will be interred with Ann at the Conejo Mountain Memorial Park in Camarillo on what would have been George’s 74th birthday, May 28, 2020. As large gatherings are currently not permitted, the interment will be immediate family only. A celebration of George’s life will be planned for a later date.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation in memory of George. In keeping with George’s steadfast love of sports, please donate to the women’s softball team at San Diego State University using this link: http://sdsualumni.org/GeorgeDurr. George was pleased to see women recognized in collegiate sports as equal, legitimate athletes.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of George P. Durr, please visit our floral store.
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