Among his endearing qualities, Puyallup tribal member Jerry George is a shy guy, not one to seek the spotlight at all. He’s a quiet man who makes a big impact on the Tribe, and the July Elders Luncheon crowd was very happy to honor him as July Elder of the month. Usually Jerry is at his job at the EQC during monthly Elders Luncheons, but this week he took a break to come and feel the love showered on him by his family and friends.
As Puyallup Vice Chairman David Bean and Tribal Council members James Rideout, Tim Reynon, Anna Bean and Sylvia Miller gathered at the front of the room to invite Jerry up, Sylvia Miller said, “It’s really a big honor for me to do this. Jerry does not know how to say no to anybody. He’s got one of the biggest hearts of anyone I have ever met in my life. He’s a very hard worker, always has been, and anytime a tribal member needs something, Jerry is always one of those who will help.”
Vice Chairman Bean looked back on his own growing up years, fondly remembering Jerry and mom Faye Wright. “Jerry has been an amazing mentor, someone I can always talk to and is just a great guy and a great friend,” he said.
James Rideout recalled bygone days fishing on the river with Jerry’s family upriver doing the same thing. “It was always nice fishing on our part of the river knowing his family was always on the upper part,” Councilman Rideout said. “They bring a lot of tradition and culture, and their fishing style is impeccable. I’ve always looked up all of you up there. I watched you guys through the smokeshops and the adversities you guys have overcome and I use that as a model today when facing adversity – how you guys dealt with it and moved forward. Thank you for who you are and being a pillar in the community.”
Jerry George was born on July 27, 1949 at Tacoma General to Don George Sr. (Quinault) and Faye Wright (Puyallup). He had a lot of brothers and sisters to grow up with: Don George Jr., Richard George Sr., Larry George, Carol George, Andrea Vansyckle, Mary Baseballe and Shelly Dillon.
He went to Fife schools from kindergarten through high school, and started studying at Western Washington University in Bellingham until he was drafted into the Marines during the Vietnam era. Following boot camp in San Diego and infantry training at Camp Pendleton, he was sent on secret missions before he was assigned to the Vietnam mainland.
He recalled one such secret mission. “Communists had Phnom Penh (capital of Cambodia) surrounded so we were going to make sure they didn’t take it over,” he said. “We didn’t have to land because there was an airstrike on Russian arms coming to Cambodia so without those arms they all dispersed.”
When Jerry got out of the Marines, he came back home and worked for the City of Puyallup. In 1980 he met his wife Lorie Staber (Blackfeet), and they had two children: Angela Hatch and Gerald Jr.
He went to work with his mom and step-dad at their smokeshop then opened his own where the Youth Center is now on Levee Road. Now he works at the Emerald Queen Casino as a tribal gaming agent, where he has worked for the past 10 years.
Fishing on the river is a cherished memory of Jerry’s, going back to when he was a 10-year-old fishing during the time when it wasn’t safe for any Native American to be on the water.
“Back when they were arresting all the men that were fishing, they wouldn’t arrest the kids,” he said. Even so, he saw the reality of tribal men and women fishing and he remembers the rocks being thrown at him as he fished. On a happier note, he remembers too when Marlon Brando came to help defend the Tribe when Jerry was the 6th grade.
With his passel of grandchildren to enjoy these days, and a satisfying job that he enjoys, Jerry said he has no real retirement plans as of yet, as he likes to stay busy and be out in the community loving life as a member of his beloved Puyallup Tribe.