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Paul George remembered as the white-hatted friend of the fair

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ANN MARIE AMES
February 1, 2009
— At first glance, you'd see the big, white hat.

Then, you might notice the big, strong voice.


Behind both was a passion second to none for the Rock County 4-H Fair.


It was a fierce passion that sometimes bordered on bullheadedness, Paul George's friends said.


But he got things done.


"Paul was a shaker and a mover," said Mark Gunn, co-chairman of the meat animal sale at the Rock County 4-H Fair.


George, 59, died unexpectedly Wednesday. His family plans to establish a memorial in George's name to honor his love of the livestock and the youth exhibitors at the fair.


George got Gunn involved in the sale, and he always made sure kids who wanted to were able to participate in livestock projects, Gunn said.


"He's going to be a huge loss to our fair," Gunn said. "If I will remember one thing about Paul George, it will be that he had his heart in the right place. That was for youth. It just spilled out from there."


George raised Angus cattle and Duroc pigs on his farm north of Evansville. For many years, he worked as an auctioneer in his family's business, George Auction Service. He started working as an auctioneer in 1967 after graduating from Evansville High School. He and his brother in 1973 took over the business, which their father had founded.


George lived and breathed the livestock sale at the Rock County 4-H Fair, said Jim Raymond, ag lender at M&I Bank, Janesville. George was the chairman of the sale committee for many years and called the sale as an auctioneer for many more, Raymond said.


The sale was forever on the tip of George's tongue in a conversation, Raymond said.


"He was always selling that meat animal sale," George said. "It was more than just an event to him. Paul lived and breathed it 12 months of the year."


He continued to call the sale, even when his eyesight began to fail, Raymond said.


George blamed stress for his loss of vision.


In 1999, the state auctioneer board suspended George's auctioneer's license, and he blamed the loss of his license for his deteriorating health, he told The Janesville Gazette at the time.


The George brothers went their separate ways after a 1996 scuffle with a client over an unpaid bill, George told the Gazette in 1999.


"It's ruined my life," he said about the suspension.


But many people remember George best for his work with the fair and agriculture.


George was the Rock County 4-H Fair Board president from 1986 to 1991. He was an active member of the Rock County pork and beef producers associations and was a mainstay at the annual cookouts for both associations, said UW Extension agent Randy Thompson.


He also worked as an auctioneer at the Dane and Walworth county fairs, Thompson said.


George was a member of the Wisconsin Livestock Breeders Association and the Wisconsin Duroc Breeders. He had key leadership roles in the Governor's Blue Ribbon Livestock Auction at the Wisconsin State Fair, Thompson said.


He often donated his auctioneering skills for charities such as the YWCA or the House of Mercy.


"Paul was a strong advocate for youth and youth livestock programs," Thompson said. "His love for the fair was unmatched."


It was at the fair that George met Janesville farmer Bob Arndt, who became a lifelong friend.


George was a teenager during Arndt's first year as a 4-H'er. The 9-year-old Arndt and his 10-year-old brother were struggling to lead their Hereford steers across the fairgrounds.


None of the other kids offered to help.


But George did.


"He said, 'Can I help you young fellas move those calves?'" Arndt recalled. "I've looked up ever since."


That was just the kind of guy George was, Arndt said.


The two didn't always see eye-to-eye, but Arndt respected George for his ability to do what he said he would do. George was stubborn, Arndt said, but he stuck to his word.


"Everything he did, he did well," Arndt said. "He put the maximum amount of effort into it. If he couldn't do it well, he didn't do it.


"He just was a heck of a man. It's going to be so hard going on without him."



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