George Kendrick, the “unofficial mayor” of Arbutus, died of natural causes on Dec. 22, according to his family. He was 96 and living at The Neighborhoods at St. Elizabeth Nursing & Rehabilitation Center, receiving hospice care from Gilchrist.
“My pop served the Arbutus community for over 70 years,” said his grandson, Chad Kendrick, 31. “He loved this town with his whole heart and would do anything to make it a better place.”
George Kendrick, born in Wheeling, West Virginia, was known in the community for founding the Arbutus Big Red semiprofessional football team and serving as treasurer of the Arbutus Recreation Council. He was also heavily involved in planning the Arbutus 4th of July parade and the annual 10K race that preceded the parade in the morning, from 1997 until 2017.
In 2014, Mr. Kendrick described the 10K race as “the greatest community spirit there is.” He was proud of his work on the community event and said public participation increased greatly during the time he helped organize it.
"There was a time when you could fire a cannon down in the middle of Arbutus and you would never hear a soul, but since then, we have quite a crowd on the sidelines,” Mr. Kendrick said in 2014.
Mr. Kendrick’s daughter Valerie Stocksdale, 62, said her father “loved everything about the red, white and blue. He was, oh gosh, very patriotic,” she said.
According to online records maintained by the National Archives, George Kendrick enlisted in the Army on Dec. 18, 1942, at age 20, and served in World War II. He married his first wife, Floris Kendrick (nee, Sevigny) in 1946. She was hit and killed by a car in 1952.
He met his future wife, Naamah Smith, at a dance on Valentine’s Day the next year. His family said he would sometimes work “two or three jobs” to provide for his family.
In April 2017, a mural was dedicated in Mr. Kendrick’s honor at the corner of East Drive and Maple Avenue. It depicts Mr. Kendrick surrounded by football players from the Golden Eagles youth football program, which he coached.
“Mr. George was always involved in everything,” said James Malone Jr., a lieutenant with the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department and a state delegate until 2014. “I’ve known him for a long, long time.”
Malone said Mr. Kendrick coached his recreation football team when he was 10 years old, in 1967.
“I don’t remember that year losing a game, I think we went undefeated,” Malone said.
George Kendrick was a member of the American Legion Dewey Lowman Post 109, and he was a mason at Howard Lodge 101. The field at Arbutus Middle School and the Arbutus Recreation Center both are named in his honor.
“He earned the title of ‘Mayor of Arbutus,’ because there wasn’t anything that Mr. George wouldn’t do for the town of Arbutus,” Malone said. “There wasn’t anything Mr. George wouldn’t do if you needed his help.”
Stocksdale said her father “had his fingers in everything” in Arbutus. Besides recalling his 4th of July efforts and his football coaching, she noted the times he spent pretending to be Santa Claus on the phone for local children.
When Mr. Kendrick played the role of Santa in town, parents would sometimes say their child was “on the cusp” of not believing in Santa Claus, Stocksdale said.
“So, he would say, ‘Oh Johnny, I saw you played football this year, and you made that touchdown,’ and these kids, their eyes would get big as saucers,” she said. “That’s a good memory; there are so many.”
Chad Kendrick, Mr. Kendrick’s grandson, said he never left his grandfather’s side when he was growing up.
“When I got older, my favorite memories were having my pop come to my college graduation and wedding,” he said.
Chad Kendrick said George was able to “hang out all day” at the wedding in 2016, and jumped up to dance with the Oriole Bird when the baseball team’s mascot hit the dance floor.
“He just liked to have a good time,” Chad Kendrick said. “All his grandkids’ weddings, it was the same way. He just loved being there and having a great time.”
A few months ago, sensing Mr. Kendrick’s declining health, Chad Kendrick got his grandfather’s signature tattooed on his arm. Chad Kendrick plans on telling his future children all about their great-grandfather.
“Not many kids can say their grandparents were at their high school graduation, college graduation and their wedding,” Chad Kendrick said. “My grandfather is going to live with me every single day of my life, and I’m going to make sure my kids know who he is.”
Public viewings are scheduled for 3-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 3, at Arbutus United Methodist Church. A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 5, at 11 a.m. at the same location.
Besides his daughter and grandson, George Kendrick is survived by children Pam Schwartz, Larry Kendrick and Ross Kendrick; his brother, Sam Kendrick; 10 other grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.
Mr. Kendrick was preceded in death by Naamah, his wife of 60 years, who died at age 83 in February 2015.
When she died, Mr. Kendrick said his wife, who was known as the “First Lady of Arbutus,” was “the greatest there ever was.” Mr. Kendrick said he and Naamah “work[ed] together,” and that she was responsible for “raising all kinds of hell” whenever he made a mistake.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations in George Kendrick’s name to be sent to the Gilchrist Hospice and/or the George J. Kendrick Scholarship Fund at the Arbutus Community Association.
Donations to Gilchrist can be made online at http://gilchristcares.org/donation and donations to the scholarship fund can be made at 1349 Stevens Ave., Arbutus.