Al George loved the stars and shared them with 100,000 people

Staff writerJanuary 16, 2014 

6/20/02 GEORGE/TELESCOPE

Al George mug owned and operated the Pettinger-Guiley Observatory in their own Summitview front yard since 1979. Their 15-inch refractor telescope is one of the largest privately-owned in the United States. (Drew Perine/The News Tribune)

DREW PERINE

Al George loved his family, his friends and his faith. But his passion for the stars is the legacy he leaves behind.

“He had the love and the passion for (astronomy) until the day he died,” Vee George said of her late husband, who died Dec. 30 after a long battle with diabetes. He was 71.

George and his wife have owned Puyallup Carpet Center downtown since the late 1970s, and had been operating in Tacoma before that for almost their entire marriage.

“We’ve been in business for almost 50 years,” Vee George said Tuesday.

Despite his longtime commitment to his business, Al George lived for the stars. He was a lifelong amateur astronomer and heavily involved with the Tacoma Astronomical Society for more than 40 years.

The Georges opened up their Puyallup home for 24 years, until 2002, for free public events at the Pettinger/Guiley Observatory. It was a facility Al George created on their property with what TAS members call a world-famous refractor telescope.

Ken Slavens, a longtime friend and fellow TAS member, said that at least 100,000 people — too many to count — had visited over the years.

“He had to replace that carpet a lot,” Slavens quipped. “Good thing he owned a carpet center.”

Slavens said George viewed money as merely dirty green paper and would hand out $5 bills to kids for learning about constellations and sharing what they learned with others.

“A lot of people don’t understand how truly insignificant we are on this planet of ours,” he said. “Al wanted to make sure everybody understood that this is what God put up there for everyone to enjoy.”

Ray Stinson, a retired astronomy professor who lives in Fircrest, said George played a huge role in expanding TAS’ outreach in the region.

“A lot of people became interested in astronomy due to the efforts of Al George,” he said.

Stinson said TAS is the second-oldest and one of the most far-reaching astronomy clubs in the country. It was founded in 1931 and now partners with more than 200 schools in the Puget Sound area.

Vee George said her husband always related everything to astronomy.

“As a child, he used to beg for a telescope,” she said. “Back in those days I don’t think they understood the passion that he had for astronomy.”

Al George wasn’t as interested in viewing stars with more advanced telescopes. “He wanted to get out there and observe with the naked eye,” his wife said.

His loved ones agreed he was a humble, caring person who encouraged everyone around him to learn about the universe. That passion left them with a permanent, poetic memory of the astronomer, friend and husband.

“He loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night,” Vee George said.

Kari Plog: 253-597-8682
kari.plog@thenewstribune.com
@KariPlog

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