George Gunars Dale died on Monday, January 23, at the age of 95. He was born Gunars Kauselis in 1927 in Liepāja, Latvia, where he enjoyed a happy childhood until his life was upended by the Russian invasion: at age 14, he was separated from his family and never saw his parents again. (Many years later, he was joyfully reunited with his sister, Silvija.) George had the rare and unenviable distinction of being captured by Allied forces and held as a Prisoner of War, after which he spent time in a displaced persons camp in Germany (where he attended high school with no books and played the piano in a makeshift band). After immigrating to the United States, he became a naturalized citizen and served honorably as a United States Marine (earning an Expert qualification in rifle).
After George’s discharge he moved to Arizona, attending Gila Community College in Thatcher, AZ, where he played on the tennis team, and then graduating from the University of Arizona, where he was inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma in recognition of his outstanding physics scholarship. George started his career as an electrical engineer at Point Mugu Naval Base in California. He later worked at Lindsey Air Station in Wiesbaden, Germany, Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, MS, and Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, NY.
Some of George’s happiest years were those when he and his family lived in Germany, which they consider their second home. They count as family the lifelong friends who live there. George loved taking long walks in the German forests; he was an ace hunter of mushrooms. He and the family had countless adventures on their dozens of road trips throughout Europe—France, Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, the former Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey— in “Old Faithful,” their immense green ’60s-era Buick station wagon.
George was as modest as he was accomplished. He spoke five languages and had traveled the world. He was a Master Gardener, whose extensive, flourishing garden was a labor of love and a source of great pride. He was an ambitious cook (and enthusiastic diner). After taking ceramics classes at the Kirkland Town Art Center and the Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute, George went on to become a skilled potter in his own right. (His work often included hand-etched motifs from his homeland; he happily donated his pots to raise money for a number of local charitable causes.) He and his wife Ofelia danced a spirited jitterbug. He could hit a mean slice shot on the tennis court. And George had a great and abiding love of nature—he enjoyed hiking and could name seemingly every constellation and star in the night sky. He loved trees and birds and adored dogs, most especially his own.
George lived a rich, full life, built with grit and resourcefulness from his humble beginnings as a teenage immigrant to the United States. He worked his way through school with an assortment of jobs, including manually setting pins at a bowling alley, vacuuming the local Sears Roebuck at night, and assisting with veterinary operations. Through life’s many ups and downs, he maintained a twinkle in his eye. He knew he was loved and appreciated every day; he worked hard and took nothing for granted and was steadfastly devoted to his family. As he wrote in a reminiscence of his life: “I know that I have been lucky, am fortunate to be where I am now, and I have been doing all I can to be a patriotic citizen.”
George leaves behind his loving family: Ofelia C. Dale, his wife of 64 years; his daughter, Mara Dale, and her husband, Joe LaRusso, of Somerville, MA; his son, George “Buzzy” Dale, and his wife, Julie Dale, of Manlius, NY; and two grandchildren, Sam Dale Barton and Lucian Dale. He will be deeply missed and lovingly remembered.
In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to either the Kirkland Town Library or the Clinton Volunteer Fire Department, in appreciation for the kindness and expertise shown by the EMS.