Sunday, October 1, 2017
4:00 PM to 7:00 PM EDT
Betzler Life Story Funeral Homes
6080 Stadium Drive
Kalamazoo, MI 49009
Trisagion Service will be held at 7 PM.
At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
German Shepherd Rescue of Orange County
120 Tustin Avenue Suite C-1111
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Never one to admit it, George Dales liked dogs. While the girls didn't have a dog when they were young, they were taught to respect and care for animals. George's eldest daughter went on to found a respected non-profit group, German Shepherd Rescue of Orange County, dedicated to rescuing, rehabilitating and re-homing German Shepherd dogs that have nowhere else to turn. The volunteer-driven organization places between 300 and 350 dogs in loving homes every year, with injured, ill and abused dogs being a primary focus. Since its inception, GSROC has matched more than 6000 German Shepherds with adoptive families.
During his retirement, George took a special interest in this organization, and particularly enjoyed opening the holiday cards, reading the success stories, and (especially!) recording the charitable donations. When a larger donation arrived, he announced it with his signature, "WOW--good one!". We know that George would be pleased to see individuals help support the group's latest undertaking: A sanctuary that will allow unadoptable and senior dogs to live out their lives surrounded by kindness and good care.
The Willis Foundation
491 W. South Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
George Dales, as a Veteran, Educator, and consummate Patriot, would like you to direct any monetary gifts towards paying for college scholarships for kids whose parents have died in combat. Please make checks payable to the Cpl. Christopher Kelly Willis Foundation. You may donate online at the above website or mail to the above address.
Life Story / Obituary
GEORGE DALES - A 5’ 2” GIANT
George Dales was born in Excelsior, West Virginia in 1921 to humble beginnings. The first son of Greek immigrant parents, George was taught the importance of heritage, hard work, and tenacity at an early age. These core values served as the underpinnings for a very full life and an impressive professional career.
Recognizing that a higher education was the ultimate path to success, George worked multiple jobs to put himself through college, as well as to help support his family. He shared stories of shining shoes during The Great Depression to encourage his daughters to maintain a strong worth ethic. His hard work paid off: George graduated cum laude from Miami of Ohio University. In his senior year, he was recruited to attend the US Navy Fitness Instructor School where he taught swimming to Navy and Marine women cadets.
With WWII under way, George enlisted in the Navy and was assigned to the cruiser USS Alaska. The Alaska escorted USS Saratoga and USS Enterprise as they conducted night bombing missions against Tokyo. On the same tour, Alaska covered the landing operations at Iwo Jima. Dales held the rank of Chief Petty Officer and Fitness Instructor on board the mega-ship, with keeping the 1517 sailors in top physical shape among his responsibilities. His Navy career took him to the Philippines, Korea, Japan and China.
After his tour, George accepted a graduate assistantship at University of Michigan, where he earned two graduate degrees (with honors), before becoming Associate Professor of Phys Ed and Head Track and Cross Country Coach at Western Michigan University in 1953. In 1955, he married his wife Christine, who provided the perfect nurturing balance to his hard-charging style throughout their 53 years together. The couple raised four daughters, all of whom inherited their father’s drive to be the best.
George’s career at WMU was the stuff that legends are made of. His hard-driving style and “never say never” mantra led him to become the winningest coach in the school’s athletic history, outpacing the more recognized sports of football and basketball. Under his watch, WMU earned two NCAA team titles in cross country; 12 Mid-American Conference crowns in track & field; 8 Mid-American Conference crowns in cross country, and produced stand-out athletes, national record holders, an Olympic Gold Medalist, and 25 All Americans. Honors and accolades abound, including Hall of Fame memberships too many to list; the annual USTFCCCA George Dales Award, presented to an exceptional track & field or cross country coach, and a stint as an assistant track coach to the Greek Olympic track team, to name a few.
Anyone who knew George knows that he was extremely proud of his Greek heritage and its contributions to sport, specifically the Olympic Games. He attended every U.S. supported Olympic Games from 1952 to 2008, often as an advisor to the US team and occasionally as press. These travels took him to Helsinki, Melbourne, Rome, Tokyo, Mexico City, Munich, Montreal, Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta, Sydney, Athens and Beijing. When it came to travel in Greece, George was a fountain of knowledge, excited to introduce friends, family (and occasional by-standers) to the rich heritage and beautiful sights of his motherland. He loved to regale anyone who would listen with tales of the ancient Battle of Thermopylae and the Battle of Marathon, the grand-daddy of the modern marathon. George told the tales so passionately and often that when grew into his 90s, his daughters surmised that he probably had an all-access pass to the first marathon.
A treasured memory was the family’s 2004 trip to the Olympic Games in Athens. George, Christine, their daughters and families, enjoyed field level access to see Track & Field superstars from around the world make history. George was in his element. He carried with him his signature accessory: A 3-inch stack of index cards rubber-banded together, scribbled with world record stats and qualifying times—a tool affectionately dubbed, “Dad’s palm pilot”.
Relating some of their Dad’s trademark expressions, the Dales girls shared these:
-“A car is a tool---it doesn’t need to have a radio.”
-“I’ll eat the cow, you eat the grass.” (to his vegetarian daughters)
-“You girls don’t need shampoo—in the Navy, we used bars of Ivory soap.” (All the more amusing since he was bald.)
Not even retirement could slow George down. He remained integrally involved in his beloved sports until his final days. His well-conditioned athletes couldn’t keep up with George when he was barreling through an international airport, or leading a tour in a foreign locale. He coordinated international Congresses for up-and-coming coaches and established a mentoring program to help sustain a legacy of excellence. He was the President of the International Track & Field Coaches Association; Editor of the Track & Field Quarterly; the Secretary-Treasurer of the US Track Coaches Association; and Commissioner of the Central Collegiate Conference. Despite his advancing years, he was still a frequent sight on the field, bouncing from the starting line to track-side with words of encouragement.
George was the greatest advocate for Track & Field that the sport has ever known. He worked tirelessly to polish the raw talents of his athletes while always reminding them that they were part of a greater tradition. Later in life, he continued to lobby to “Bring Back Track” to WMU, a battle that he never gave up on, but was not able to achieve. Asked what he hoped his legacy would be, George’s wish was simple: “I hope I inspired a few people to be champions in sports and in life.”