December 16, 2021
Many of you who have lived in the Champaign-Urbana community for a long time are probably familiar with George R. Carlisle. George moved away from our community about ten years ago to go live near his sister and her family in Oklahoma.
Sadly, George died from COVID on November 28 of this year, in Bixby, Oklahoma.
George was a man about town. When George lived here, you may have seen him at performances at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, or you may have heard him sing in various church choirs. You may have seen him in older buildings in our community, on and off campus, taking photographs of old toilets and urinals, which seemed to fascinate him. You may even have seen him dumpster-diving after the students left at the end of the semester. And you would certainly have seen him at CCHCC events – at our holiday parties, community meetings, marches, and protests, or just hanging out in our office.
George was (as we say in Texas, where I’m from) a “character”. He was a totally unique and fascinating individual. He was a sort of gentle giant – tall and large with a strong presence, comfortable in any setting, and eager to talk.
George was most likely on the autism spectrum and he spoke in a monotone, with one sentence running right into the other, sometimes unendingly. But what he had to say was almost always fascinating and informative. George was extremely intelligent and well-read, and his interests were many and varied, and you could always count on learning something from him in every conversation.
He was a dear friend and member of the CCHCC family. George was totally devoted to CCHCC and our staff, and he was pure of heart. George was tender and kind, though he did not express himself in the usual ways. But if you knew George, you knew he cared about his people and his community.
George was unflinchingly honest, so you always knew where he stood. He cared a great deal about nature and the environment, and about social justice.
The t-shirts he wore were often salvaged from a dumpster on campus, and he would proudly tell you where and when he found them, and he would marvel (disapprovingly) at the perfectly good items that students would throw away.
One especially tender moment that I shared with George involved his hallmark honesty, paired with his kind devotion. George was fascinated with astronomy and he was knowledgeable about the universe and stars and constellations. One day, by way of compliment and affection, he told me that I was like a certain star (I don’t remember the name of it). He said it was one of the brightest stars in our universe. But not The Brightest. No, The Brightest star (I forget the name of it) was reserved for a very dear and special friend of his – a lady who was one of his pastors. He was sort of apologetic that he couldn’t give me the compliment of The Brightest Star, but I told him I was honored to be the second brightest and I was just happy to be part of his universe.
After moving to Oklahoma, George was a frequent correspondent, regularly sending cards and postcards to CCHCC and to his many friends. The postcards were sometime photos he had taken of old urinals or toilets from around town. You didn’t have to look at the back of that postcard to know it was from George.
We at CCHCC will always remember George fondly. He was part of our family. He was part of what made Champaign County a great community, and he contributed lots of his time to supporting CCHCC and our work. He was a true and devoted friend.
I am certain that George is now among his beloved stars, full of wonder and fascination.
We will miss our friend.
If you would like to read George’s obituary in The News-Gazette, you can see it here.
With sympathies to everyone who is also missing George Carlisle,
Claudia Lennhoff, and CCHCC Board and Staff