George Victor Mather
George Victor Mather, August 2, 1926 - June 14, 2006
This website honours the memory of George Mather. George married Jane Elizabeth McCahan Kome on Dec 27, 1960. They were married for more than 45 years. He was a caring and generous stepfather to Jane's children, Penney and Dylan Kome, and a proud father to Christine Courtland Mather. He loved babies, and was delighted to welcome Sanford Douglas and Graham Jeffries Kome-Pond, Spencer Christian and George Samuel Kome, and Eric William and Alec George Mather-Burks.
A bit of background on George's life
George was the only child of George Courtland Mather and Christine Mather (neé Harris). On his father's side, George was a direct descendant of the Reverend Richard Mather, whose arrival in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1629 marked the beginning of what became known as "The Mather Dynasty". His mother's family included Commodore Preble, who commanded the battleship Constitution (Old Ironsides) in the Battle for the Barbary Coast. The Commodore lost, but in Maine they named parks for him anyway.
George's parents divided their time among Center Point and Kerrville, Texas; Oak Park, Illinois; and Pentwater, Michigan. George graduated from the Missouri Military Academy in Mexico, Missouri, and went immediately into the Navy V12 (college program) in Villanova, Pennsylvania. He served in the South Pacific on a battleship that was hit by a kamikaze pilot during World War II.
After the war, he earned a Master's degree in English literature at the University of New Mexico and then continued his studies at the University of Chicago. In academic parlance, he was ABD -- completed his PhD studies, All But Dissertation.
George had a long and eventful career teaching English composition in Chicago Community Colleges, starting with Wilson Junior College (which became Kennedy-King City College) and then Loop City College (now Harold Washington City College). He was active in the first college teachers' strike in the country. His photo appeared on the front page of the Daily News, wearing his full-length black leather coat and a sandwich-board sign that said, "Strikes are illegal: Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Chancellor Shabat." He retired from teaching in 1991.
George Mather attending a family wedding.
Pentwater, Cozumel, Jimmy's, and origami
Although he was a homebody in recent years, George got around a fair bit when getting around was easier for him. He was a regular at the Woodlawn Tap, a Hyde Park bar affectionately known as "Jimmy's", after the proprietor. In earlier years, he hung out at the Compass bar, the forerunner to Second City. In the 1950s, George painted a huge mural on the wall of the Compass, using Native American themes.
Another favorite place was the family home in Pentwater, Michigan. After retirement, George used to go up to Pentwater in the spring and stay well into the fall, welcoming Jane and other family members who came to visit when they could get away. He was a familiar sight to town residents, out in his garden, raising roses and daylilies and old-fashioned flowers like phlox. He would rise early every morning, and fashion fresh bouquets for every room in the house. In early spring, Pentwater friends used to phone George in Chicago to tell him how many deer they saw in the yard, eating his prize tulips.
Like his father, George had a uniform of overalls and straw hat that sometimes led strangers astray. One year, a summer resident bicycled by early every morning and greeted him with, "Buenos Dias," to which he responded, "Buenos Dias". Then one day, she heard him speaking English in town-- and ever after cycled swiftly and silently past, much to his disappointment. This echoed a story his father told, about the woman who stopped her car by the side of the road as he worked in the garden and asked if he could come work for her the next day. "The lady of the house wouldn't like it," he responded.
Today is Midsummer's Day, a special time for George in Pentwater. His father would take him to Dry Lake "the most beautiful spot in the world" and he would take Christine (or whoever was available) to be there at noon. The birches are gone now, and the lake (bog) is drying out, but on Midsummer's Day George and Christine would shut their eyes at noon (while on the phone together if possible) and remember.
For a couple of decades, George and Jane spent at least a month every winter at Bungalos Pepita on the island of Cozumel, in Mexico. George enjoyed snorkelling during the day, and socializing at sidewalk cafés in the evening.
Does anyone have any good George in Cozumel stories? What about his jeep drives on the [far distant past] unpaved uncharted island? His forarys into the interior to find Mayan ruins and mosquitos? His successful assaults on the Spanish language?
Since 2001, George has lived at Montgomery Place, overlooking Lake Michigan. He was admitted under hospice but surprised everybody by bouncing back. Soon he was strolling out to feed the pigeons in the park everyday, visiting friends in the medical wing, and handing out intricately folded origami creations to his own visitors.
Origami was George's main passion in recent years. With decades of experience behind him, he threw himself into creating imaginative and inventive creatures and tableaux. For Christmas 2004, he presented Jane with an amazing Japanese hororary -- a three-story tower, with four creatures one each tier, representing the Japanese characters assigned to the hours. After reading Life of Pi, he created an origami tiger astride an origami raft.
Please share your stories about George.
George and especially Jane have friends and family flung across the United States and beyond. We created this website as a way to share memories and stories about George. Consider this your invitation to the wake. Please pull up a chair, pour yourself your favorite libation, and take a moment to share a favorite thought or story about George. We'd love to hear from you!
Donations in George's memory may be made to the Hyde Park-Kenwood Interfaith Council, 1448 E 53rd St, Chicago IL, 60615, earmarked for the Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen.