In Memory: George C. Shafer Jr.

December 22, 1929 – April 5, 2016

It is with a heavy heart that we mourn the passing of George Carlton Shafer, Jr. ‘36, known fondly to many generations of campers and staff as “Mr. George.”

After assuming the directorship of Susquehannock for Boys, Mr. George and his brother, Mr. Ed (Edwin H. Shafer ’34), oversaw the administration of the program for decades. In 1986, George and his wife Dede Shafer ’54 opened a sister camp, Camp Susquehannock for Girls at Lake Choconut in Friendsville, PA where they served as directors. After 41 years of service, Mr. George retired in 2000 but continued to spend every summer of his life at the camp founded by his father in 1905. Mr. George’s unfailing devotion to the ideals espoused by his father “King” Shafer was influential in the development of countless individuals and the establishment of Susquehannock as a leading educational institution.

Mr. George’s spirit and legacy will continue to be enduring and inspirational at Susquehannock.

Megan Hick Maham '91
  • Growing up at Susquehannock was a great pleasure of mine. Being “family” was just an afterthought, because George treated everyone like one of his grandchildren. I will always remember his beautiful chuckle. He had an amazing and sophisticated laugh! It was deep and had a presence! I can remember the long, and sometimes heated, conversations he and my grandfather would have on the porch of our cabin. Whether it be about the wind on the lake, or the belt on his old tan Van! Oh that Van! I remember plenty of very dark(and fast) drives from S4B to S4G, after skit nights or a co-Ed gathering. I’ll never understand why I was so lucky to get to ride home with him and Dede rather than the old camp bus! I know that man taught many a camper how to properly hold a tennis racket, volley a ball, and score a proper tennis match. He’s a big reason why Susquehannock was so special! It’s hard to think of a memory that I’ll cherish the most! It’s between the roar of his SUSQUEHANNOCK, and the way he would look at Dede. Both are things that will always stick with me. He was a very special man, and will be missed greatly. I regret that I will not be able to make it home from Germany for memorial.

Thomas D. Kent Jr. (TK) '73
  • I would like to share a few words about my wonderful EA Tennis Coach predecessor George Shafer. Please understand that I grew up spending my summers at Camp Susquehannock and nearly every day, I chose to spent my mornings on the tennis courts under the expert tutelage of “Mr. George.” George Shafer taught me not just how to hold and swing a racket, but how to analyze and orchestrate a point. He’s a master strategist and brilliant tactician and he helped me understand all dimensions of the game. It is hardly a wonder that EA won lots of titles under his guidance, but I should point out that Episcopal was known above all for its doubles. George could take players of mediocre talent and form them into a truly effective doubles pairing; and many interac titles were won by pulling out victories at that last 3rd doubles spot. The legacy he built in the nearly 4 decades that he spent at the helm of the program is worthy of the highest applause and it is indeed my great privilege to have inherit that program from him and, as he himself knows, I am doing all I can to carry on that tradition of excellence. And now that EA has the best facility in the entire league which is about to get even better, I am confident that EA’s tennis will continue to thrive! A major thank you to all who have contributed to make this possible!

Ames Parsons '73
  • In one of my first seasons as a camper at Susquehannock, circa 1973, I attended a free-choice tennis clinic run by Mr. George. The subject was “Doubles Strategy.” The clinic was held on Susquehannock’s “King’s Court” and on this occasion, our job as campers was not to play but to listen. Mr. George, along with three other counsellors took the court and played what might be termed a “slow motion” match as Mr. George set up situations, played them through demonstrating varous techniques while explaining what was happening and why. Somehow, Mr. George managed to hold rapt the attention of my teen-age brain for what expanded into a double-period session as he explained the chess match that is doubles: The battle to close in on and control the net, the strategy of the serve (getting it in is more important than pace), how to volley, proper footwork, communication between partners, the importance of placement, angle and depth of shot, use of the lob, and much more. Now, some 40 years later, this experience still ranks as one of the best sports clinics I’ve ever seen. What I saw that day was great athleticism combined with eloquence, humor, countless anecdotes, optimism, and giant intellect. Best of all, it was hugely entertaining. Made quite an impression on the young me. To say the Mr. George will be missed by the camp community is an absurd understatement. From where I sit, Mr. George and Mr. Ed created the Camp Susquehannock community I know and love — a community that for me has been my second family.

Vladislav Skalicky '71

Great man , sending my greatest regard to my tennis hero of 1971 when in the camp for the season.

Bill Seidel '80
  • A very kind and generous man that had a positive impact on me as a young camper. I remember going into Binghamton to play a tennis tournament and Mr. Shafer drove me into town. What I remember most about the day was not the tennis match but the ride back to camp. He saw a beaver dam near the side of the country road and he wanted to get a good look at it. He was curious about the dam and was excited to show me his find. So he pulled the car off the road and we went to take a closer look. He will be missed.

Jill, Bob, and Kerry Fulton '07

So sorry to hear this sad news. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Shafer family.

Andrew Thalheimer '76

My mom and I were sitting in the living room, waiting for this guy from this summer camp that I had no knowledge of but for 20 or so words listing in the ACA catalogue. Words such a swimming, baseball, basketball, soccer, camping, canoeing caught my eye. Soon, the car pulled into the driveway, and my anxiety level soared. You see, I was 9 and this guy was here to sell me and my mom on the grand idea of having me go to a sleep-away camp, in a rustic cabin, without flushing toilets, in a far away land…to play tennis so the conversation went. Me, play tennis…right. Well, I don’t recall if it was the technicolor slide show or Mr. George’s love for Susquehannock, but he won me over….and, during the first few years, I even tried tennis. Mr. George continued to share his love of Susquehannock, his wisdom, his optimism and a few tennis pointers during my many years at Susquehannock, not only to me but to every camper and staff who would listen. I haven’t forgot his famous Award-Reward speech, and often find myself quoting it to my children….and his S-U-S-Q-U-E-H-A-N-N-O-C-K cheers will often be emulated but never duplicated. His optimism was most addictive, though I thought someone may have spiked his bug juice when he thought our work week crew could make a clay tennis court at S4G with garden hoes. Clearly, we had some of the bug juice too, because we tried, inspired by Mr. George’s vision and constant encouragement. I fondly remember a very enjoyable dinner with Mr. Ed and Mr. George at the Montrose Country Club. When I became the Chair of the Board of Trustees for Camp Susquehannock Inc., I accepted their generous invitation to dinner to discuss Susquehannock’s future. We, however, ended up spending much of the conversation discussing Susquehannock’s history. Oh, the stories they could tell. It was a honour to share the table with these two…Mr. George was the yang to Mr. Ed’s ying; he was Oscar to Mr. Ed’s Felix; he was the Orange to Mr. Ed’s Blue. Little did I realize before this meal that they were so different, yet so connected and interwined by their love for Susquehannock; their genuine concern for the health, well-being, development, and success of each camper who wore the Orange and Blue; and their hopes for Susquehannock’s future. The lesson of this dinner, of course, was that what made Susquehannock great, is what would keep it great: community, integrity, diversity, mutual respect, loyalty, and compassion. This, they agreed upon. My thoughts are with Dede and the rest of Mr. George’s family, and the Susquehannock community who lost a champion, an advocate, a leader, a visionary, and an beacon of encouragement. Without him, my Susquehannock experience may have never been; because of him and Mr. Ed, my Susquehannock experience will always be. I’m now going to give three SUSQUEHANNOCK cheers to the both of them. Please join me.

Dave Nicoletti '70
  • Mr. George is up in heaven explaining the nine point tiebreaker. Thankfully, heaven is for eternity.

Heather Elliott Hoover '86
  • Mr. George will always have a special place in my heart. To me, Mr. George was the face of Camp Susquehannock for Girls. When I arrived in the summer of 1986, Mr. George and Dede offered me a warm welcome. Since it was the first summer that Camp Susquehannock for Girls was open, Mr. George filled every role. Not only was he the Camp Director, but he did every task around camp. I could always find Mr. George maintaining the lone tennis court at camp. The tennis court was clay and somehow, there was a natural spring under the court. Mr. George was constantly trying to redirect the water source and subsequently repair the damage. Mr. George’s hard work paid off. He took a few campers to compete in a junior open tennis tournament in Binghamton, New York. Thanks to Mr. George’s top rate clay court and terrific tennis instruction, we were strong competitors in the tournament. Mr. George followed through and was supportive in every way. He maintained and repaired the court, instructed us, and drove us back and forth to Binghamton for our matches. Mr. George handled challenging situations at Camp Susquehannock for Girls calmly. I was not a skilled horseback rider when I attended camp, but I was thrilled to have a chance to horseback ride. I was paired up with a horse named Snowball. I had to help care for Snowball for the summer. Well, I don’t know what I did to Snowball, but he escaped from the barn one night made a run for it across the border to New York State. I have no idea how Mr. George located the horse and got him back to camp, but I was happy to be reunited with Snowball and Mr. George took it all in stride. Mr. George’s leadership at Camp Susquehannock for Girls insured that it was a happy place. All of the counselors and campers enjoyed their time together and were eager to see each other at camp reunions in the winter. My time at Camp Susquehannock for Girls was filled with friendships, songs, stories and laughter. As I look back, I realize how similar my Camp Susquehannock and Lawrenceville experiences are. Both were newly coed and were incorporating new traditions for the girls, while preserving the significant characteristics of the existing communities. Attending Camp Susquehannock for Girls gave me the confidence to push myself to attend Lawrenceville. I am so grateful for my experiences at Camp Susquehannock and Lawrenceville. The friendships I have made through both are very important to me. I am grateful for Mr. George’s many years of support and guidance. His legacy will continue at both Camp Susquehannock and Lawrenceville. My thoughts are with Dede and his entire family during this time.

Tarryn Larson Rozen '98

“Let me tell you this about that”…one of my favourite Mr. George quotes because I knew he was about to share some pearls of wisdom. My first connection to The Susquehannock Camps was meeting Mr. George and Dede Shafer. They made me feel welcome and part of the team.

On our overnights, right before bedtime, Mr. George would serenade all the campers and staff over the walkie talkies with “Goodnight Ladies” and each overnight site would go silent as we listened and felt comforted by his gentle voice and the crackle of the camp fire.

Thank you Mr. George for watching over all of us S4G ladies.

Sandy Thatcher '50

Sandy wrote this article for the Princeton Friends of Swimming and Diving Newsletter: George C. Shafer, Jr., Princeton Class of 1951, died on April 5, 2016, in Bryn Mawr, PA. Educated at The Lawrenceville School and then Princeton, he went on to earn a master’s degree in history from Co- lumbia University in 1952. Along with his older brother Edwin, Class of 1944, he was one of a number of siblings to have competed on the swimming team at Princeton.

He devoted his life primarily to two institutions: Episcopal Acad-emy in Merion, PA, where he was a teacher and coach of football, swimming, and tennis for 43 years; and Camp Susquehannock, founded in 1905 in Brackney, PA, by his father, who was also a Princeton graduate, where he served as co-owner/co-director with his brother for 41 years.

As swimming coach George started the program at Episcopal and within a few years the boys team had won three Inter-Ac League championships in the Philadelphia area. He was particularly proud of his 1969 team, which had six All-Americans in ve events (with top ten times nationally) and set 35 records (national, pool, school, and meet) in one season. This team was inducted into the Episcopal Academy Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013. He himself was inducted into the Hall of Fame in its inaugural year as the coach whose teams had won the most championships during a career at the Academy.

Among the many whose lives he touched were Sandy Thatcher ’65, whose parents worked at Camp Susquehannock for over 20 years enabling him to literally grow up there as a camper for more than a dozen summers, and Grace (Cornelius) Limaye ’95, who was a star swimmer at Episcopal and works there today in the Admissions Office.

The memorial service for him on April 16 ended with the organ- ist playing “Old Nassau” as part of the recessional.

Camp Susquehannock Family at Mr. George's Memorial Service - Completing the Susquehannock cheer.

Camp Susquehannock Family at Mr. George's Memorial Service - Completing the Susquehannock cheer.