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Remembering Bob George and his trail of faith

By DARREL RADFORD - dradford@thecouriertimes.com

That voice.

From the stage at Church Street Gym to auditoriums where the Indiana University “Singing Hoosiers” performed. From WTTV, Channel 4 to the nationally-popular Arthur Godfrey television show. From New Castle to Germany and ultimately many parts of the world.

From people to people, his heart to their hearts, that voice made such a difference. 

New Castle High School alumnus Bob George had a voice that moved, inspired and comforted listeners and made them think.

Tom Dailey, a classmate of Bob’s who graduated with him in 1951, recently wrote to The Courier-Times and suggested a tribute article.

“New Castle lost a distinguished alumni and a best friend,” Dailey wrote. “I have known Bob for nearly 80 years from Bundy Grade School days. We were even fraternity brothers at I.U. Bob was the high scorer on the 1951 basketball team. He went on to have an outstanding life and one we can all be proud of.”

Bob was honored as a distinguished alumnus at the New Castle Homecoming celebration last September, but was unable to attend. His passing on June 1 affected not only those in his hometown, but countless others he had met in voice only.

Scores of messages expressing condolences for Bob’s family and appreciation for his life can be found on at www.bobgeorge.net, his ministries’ website. The former New Castle basketball star took a shot at helping Christians overcome depression, first with a seminar called “How to Experience Victory Over Depression.” That, in turn, led to a radio program called “People To People” which first aired June 3, 1985, featuring Bob answering questions from callers across the United States and Canada, using Biblical scriptures as a basis for each response.

“What can I say except that Bob’s teachings changed my life,” Lisa Lato wrote on the website. “When I heard what he was telling a caller about grace and the life of Christ in you, I couldn’t believe my ears….I began recording his program on a portable cassette recorder while I was out and listening each night for many months.”

“There are no words to describe my gratitude for what your Dad has done,” Frank and Kathy Esposito wrote to Debbie George Cannaday, Bob’s daughter, on the website.

“It was summer, 1985, and through the static I heard a man speaking to me through my radio from 1440 AM out of Orlando,” Frank Reed wrote on the website. “Every day I had to listen. If grace was a wooden platform and there was a crack in the wood, I was certain I had fallen through it. Day after day, I listened … over time I felt a healing balm flow over my soul. That summer changed my life forever. The man on the radio was Bob George. And I am forever grateful.”

New Castle people knew that voice well, particularly the melodic aspect. Bob was a featured vocalist in many high school productions here during his youth and after graduation, went on to Indiana University, where he was a member of the well-known “Singing Hoosiers.”

When he was a sophomore at Indiana University in 1953, George had his own television show on WTTV called “The Bob George Quintette. It was seen each Tuesday and Thursday evenings. The quintet was composed of George, who was vocalist, and four other college students who played the piano, bass violin, drums and vibra harp.

In 1957, he appeared on the Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout show. Some older New Castle residents might remember Godfrey, who had his own television show from 1948-1959. In some ways, Godfrey was the Ryan Seacrest of his time, discovering and showcasing many new talents, somewhat like today’s “American Idol” or “The Voice” does today. One of Godfrey’s “finds” included Pat Boone, who went on to become a big star during the 1950s and early 1960s, selling more than 45 million records.

So when George was one of 25 chosen out of 250 hopefuls for Godfrey’s show, it was quite an achievement. Bob’s parents not only were guests at the Talent Scout Show, but had an opportunity to meet Godfrey backstage after the show.

But service, not fame, was Bob’s calling. A soldier in the U.S. Army, he was lead singer with the army band that traveled throughout Germany, entertaining troops.

In Stuttgart, Germany, Bob produced and starred in his own talent show, featuring music and a few comedy routines. “The personnel of the show is made up of talented men who are stationed in Stuttgart,” an Aug. 1, 1957 Courier-Times article reported. “Many of his shows are arranged on short notice and sometimes he has as many as three shows in a week.”

The article also stated Mary Reno, a resident of B Avenue, visited Bob and said he was one of the most popular army entertainers in Germany. “Not only is he appreciated by the men in the Army, but he is very well-known and well-liked by the native of Stuttgart. Mrs. Reno said that as they walked along the streets, everyone was especially friendly to ‘George’ as he is called in Germany.”

His Germany experience was monumental in another personal respect. Bob met the love of his life, Amy, there at the NCO club in Germany. They married and enjoyed 60 years together before he died.

Bob returned to New Castle in April, 1992, to preside at the memorial service of his mother, Helen George, at Macer-Hall Funeral Home. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Franklyn George, lived at 615 Bundy Court in New Castle. His father was a well-known attorney in town.

Bob George may gone, but his voice lives on through radio archives, specially designed teaching materials and numerous books, including “Classic Christianity: Life’s Too Short To Miss The Real Thing.”

Mike Balsamo, another person Bob may have met in voice only, summed up the New Castle native’s considerable impact during his 85 years of life.

“There are literally no words or method of calculation that can actually measure the impact that Bob George had on millions of human beings,” Mike Balsamo wrote. “He rescued me from a prison of lifetime legalism and lead me to authentic, classic Christianity. All of us owe him a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid. I’ll miss him and the radio will never be the same.”

Bob George quotes

“You don’t become a Christian by sitting in a church anymore than you become a chicken by sitting in a hen house.”

“The Bible is uniquely a book written for the purpose of getting to know the author.”

“Light shines brightest in darkness. As light dispels darkness, truth dispels error.”

“I was thinking today, the world is spelled W-O-R-L-D and the Word is spelled W-O-R-D. The only difference is the “L”. You know what the “L” stands for? Lies. The lies of the world in comparison to the Truth of God.”