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Remembering my brother: George Kaufer, Jr.

Posted by David on May 6, 2015 in Life, Memories |

Tonight I lost one of only four people in the world who have been in my life since the day I was born. Tragically, my brother George passed away in our hometown of Walnut Creek, California after being struck by a car while riding his bicycle on his way to a after his dentist appointment in Danville. He was only 55.

I’m in a state of shock and I’m sure I will be for some time. This type of unexpected death hits you like a sucker punch to the jaw.

George, Paul, Mom, Lynette and me together in 2010

George, Paul, Mom, Lynette and me together in 2010

George was the oldest sibling of four children – six years older than me. Because of the age difference, we weren’t especially close growing up but I certainly looked up to him in so many ways. Because he was the oldest, growing up was harder for him than for the rest of us. At least he told us that. I liked to tell him that he simply wore out our parents (or trained them) so that things were easier for Paul and I as we went through our teen years.

But as we both got older, we did begin to bond and forge a stronger relationship. George began to take his responsibility of “big brother” more seriously when I was in high school and made sure I didn’t make poor decisions. For example, once he found out that my friends and I had started partying and we asked him to buy us beer, he made sure it was Moosehead because, as he put it, “If you’re going to drink, I want to make sure you at least have classy beer.” Our mutual love of beer continued into my 20s as we discovered microbrews in Portland. George would go out with Paul and I and we downed our share of pitchers together. It was only later that he confessed that he had no idea how he was able to keep up with us.

But again as we grew older we grew closer with sports as well. George became a bigger 49er and Giants fan – and we began to go to games together. I have great memories of sitting with him and watching the 49ers demolish the Giants in a playoff game while I was in town visiting in 1993 – and also bringing his daughter (and my niece) Janelle to her first Giants baseball game (at the age of 2). When Renee and I lived in California we had many get-togethers with George and his family at their house – and in most cases there was usually a 49ers or Giants game on the TV.

Even though George was not as into football and baseball as I was when we were growing up, he was into NHL hockey, and was responsible for my first exposure to the sport. I remember going to a California Golden Seals game in the Oakland Coliseum with him and my Dad and the opponent was Montreal. Being a curious young sports fan, I had to ask him, “What is a Canadian?” I can still hear his laughter today. And it was that seed that was planted that helped lead to my love of the sport today. As a matter of fact, it was because of this hockey connection that I was so excited to share with him my experience of playing in a league for the first time. One of our last conversations was when I was driving to a hockey playoff game and I called him back after he had left me a message earlier in the week. I had to tell him about my first hockey goal – and he was clearly impressed (and proud). Even at 48, it felt good to have my big brother proud of me.

So how would I describe George? Well, like most of us, George was a pretty complex guy and difficult to nail down in only a few words. So I’ll use all the words that come to mind:

  • Hard-working: While I like to think that all of us Kaufers have strong work ethics, George set the bar crazy high at a young age. As a teenager he spent Summers in Canada with our Grandpa and cousins building an outdoor market. He got a job at 15 to earn enough money to buy a car BEFORE he even had his license. As an aside, his early GTO Barracuda and other hot rod cars are still legendary among my friends. But I digress. George’s strong work ethic continued to this day. I have no idea how many 10+ hour days he’s worked over the past 5+ years in his role as construction manager for San Mateo School District. He has always taken his work responsibilities seriously and for that I always hugely respected him.
  • Loyal – George was one of the most loyal friends or family members I’ve ever known. Those who knew and loved him all knew: if you needed him for anything, George would do whatever it took to help you out. When Renee and I were landscaping our yard in California, George loaned us his pickup to help haul away rocks. I didn’t know what half-ton meant until I told him I hauled 2 tons of rocks in a single load. He could have easily blown a gasket as I almost destroyed his truck but he calmly explained to me that “half ton” meant the maximum payload.
  • Devoted: There is no doubt that the highlight of George’s life was being a father to Janelle and Megan. There was simply nothing he wouldn’t do for either of them if he felt it would somehow improve their lives or better prepare them for later stages in life. He simply cherished both of those girls and I know his absence will loom especially large in their lives moving forward. But I also know that I and the rest of their aunts and uncles will be there for them and will do our best to help fill that void as best we can.
  • Passionate: When George decided to do something, he was into it 110 percent. It didn’t matter if it was cycling, wine-tasting/collecting, baseball cap collecting, sports memorabilia or his annual Christmas party: “Half-ass” never entered his vocabulary.
  • Spiritual: George was a very devoted member of his church and I know he made many close friends through that association. He had a strong faith that helped him through difficult and challenging periods in his life.
  • Organized: It didn’t matter if it was moving Mom from Portland to Pleasanton (or Pleasanton back up to Portland), George always took the lead in planning and arranging all of the key logistics.
  • Loving: Even though George wasn’t always the best as talking about or showing his emotions, he let his actions show his true feelings. George had a deep love for his friends and all his family members. Nothing made him feel better than opening his home to others and encouraging all to enjoy the hospitality and company. And he made sure to check in on the most important women in his life: his mom and two daughters, with phone calls every week. I know those calls will be missed.

There are so many other things I feel like I could and should say about my brother now that he’s gone and I know I will think of many other things in the days, weeks and months ahead. He was responsible for so many “firsts” in my life: my first job (at a Big O Tire store), my first Indy-style race (at Sears Point Raceway, where I learned that people do drink beer at 8 am), my first wedding (he and Cathy) and my first opportunity to be an uncle to two adorable girls.

The days ahead will be filled with many more tears and sorrow as we mourn the loss of George in our lives. But I know there will also be opportunities for smiles and laughter as we collectively remember the fond memories and all that he brought into our world. At the end of the day I know that George would not like the attention and sorrow that will inevitably come – but its too difficult not to think of all that will be missed with him gone. We were planning a family reunion for this August that would have brought all of the four siblings together again to celebrate my Mom’s 80th birthday. The last such occasion was Thanksgiving 2013. Little did we know at that time that it’d be the last we’d all be together.

You just never know what life will bring – or when it will end.

I’m going to miss you big brother.

21 Comments

  • Kim & Bob Young says:

    Good Neighbor George was one of his nicknames on Sunset Ct/Sunset Dr where Bob & I were blessed with being friends & neighbors to Cathy, George, Megan & Janelle for over 20 years. We can not believe such a terrible accident has taken him from us. We love you Good Neighbor George. May you ride on until we meet again.

    P.S. Sorry I busted your new truck while we were camping and I had to find the authorities when y’all didn’t return from tubing down the river!

  • Sue Elardo says:

    George was a good man and friend. He and Cathy were some of the first friends we met at church when we moved to California. They always opened up their home for our Heart Group! Which was one of the best blessings in our lives!
    (Our friends from Heart Group)
    We always enjoyed and looked forward to their annual Christmas party. We moved over 4 years ago out of state and every year we still wish we could be there attending and celebrating with them!
    Our hearts go out to Cathy and his daughters and family. Praying for you all.

  • Bridget Biggins says:

    My sincere condolences – George was a great man. Thank you for sharing your memories. May you find comfort with family and friends. George had a great impact on many people. We all love you and will miss you. Rest in peace.

  • gkaufer says:

    That is a wonderful tribute to your brother, David. I am still in shock and and cannot process it all at this time. My prayers are with you and every member of our family during this horribly difficult time. Losing a son is something I never dreamed would happen to me. It is gut wrenching beyond belief. I never knew an 82 year old man could cry so much. I love you, David

  • Stan and Dana Chavarria says:

    We are so sorry for your loss. George was a wonderful man, always so kind and giving. Our thoughts and prayers are with Cathy and the girls and George’s whole family during this very sad time.

  • Julie Murray Brenman says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about George. Growing up, he was always the young adult when I was just a tyke, helping make sure the swarms of neighborhood kids didn’t do anything too crazy. My thoughts are with all of the Kaufers during this sad time.

  • Debbie Caldwell says:

    Very touching and heartfelt. Keep those memories in your heart and share them with your children. It will be the best way to remember him. Hugs!!

  • Greg Moranski says:

    Geoge, Cathy and the girls became good friends of ours during our time in California, Our girls were friends of their girls but it wasn’t long before we wanted to just spend time with George and Cathy! George was a great friend and as you stated David, he would help you with anything without even knowing the details. We shared beers together at Pete’s, spent time talking about wine, and George even did a long 8 mile run near our house in Illinois during a quick visit to the area. George will be missed – a great man, husband, dad and friend to all! God Bless you George!

  • Tami Giles says:

    I am so, so sorry for the great loss you and your family have suffered. I know the deep and painful sadness that comes from sudden & unexpected loss very personally. I know there’s nothing- no words that can make the feelings and the tears go away, but I am thinking of you today, and am so very sorry.

  • […] year old George Kaufer of Danville, CA was cycling to his dentist appointment when he was struck and fatally injured by a 1997 Toyota Avalon. According to the Contra Costa […]

  • Tracey Ashby says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your brother David! I’ve only met George a couple of times, but I know he is deeply loved and will be deeply missed by his family! Sending my love to you all and praying for comfort as well.
    Tracey Ashby
    (JoeAnn’s daughter)

  • Shari says:

    What a wonderful tribute. I’m sorry I missed out meeting him, but your words here help me know him and will help others remember him. Prayers go out to you and your family.
    Shari Fromm (one of Lynette’s past college roommates)

  • Bev says:

    Dave-
    You have been in my thoughts recently and I am sorry it took until now (and this) to connect. My heart and prayers go out to all of you. You know that you and your family will always hold a special place in my heart. So many fond memories. Know that I am here and sending good thoughts. I know the pain of losing a sibling you are close to only too well. Your tribute was so very touching and I wipe away tears now as I write this. George would be proud of you again my friend, as am I. Hope to connect with you soon.
    Bev

  • Joy and Ray Tennison says:

    This is a beautiful tribute to your brother, Dave. Know that our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time.

  • Isabelle Bushman says:

    I am a parent in the School District where George works and have had the pleasure to really get to know him over the years, especially the last year, where I have been part of a committee to help find a solution for the enrollment growth in our schools. George was there at every meeting and so positive and always willing to help. I was always amazed, because we would need some information (like how would a building fit on this space) quickly and he would always get it done for us, no matter how many other projects he had going on simultaneously. He was such a positive man with a can do attitude and always willing to help. I was in terrible shock to hear the news yesterday (and still am) and I am very saddened to know I will not see him again. Your brother touched many lives everyday, for over 12,000 current students and their families (plus all of those of years past), the many staff members and community members that have gotten to know him. I’m so very sorry for your loss. May George rest in peace. Hope to someday see you on the other side. Hugs!

  • Terry K. says:

    Oh, David, I am so very sorry for your loss. Keeping you and your family in my thoughts and prayers.

  • Joanne Bertoli says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. He will be extremely missed.

  • Mark says:

    As an avid bike rider and resident who lives one mile from this crash sight, please, please please slow down on these roads!!!

    May your Brother Rest in Peace … I’m sure you will miss Him dearly !!!

    Mark

  • John Jones says:

    Our (John and Sandra) hearts go out to the Kaufer clan as we heard about George. We only knew the Kaufers at first through Paul and eventually we were a regular routine group with Dave too. We never really had a chance to know George that well as he was only at the house a couple times. I am assuming the beer we were drinking on at least one occasion was courtesy of George. No wonder I like Moosehead eh?!

    So unexpected. We’ve no idea and little control day to day.

    Please take care Dave, Lynette, my friend Paul, and especially Mrs. Kaufer.

    Our best,
    John & Sandra

  • I was so looking forward to meeting George and doing rides with him and the bike group that he was in charge of through East Bay Fellowship church/Danville. I received the sad news in an email today. I know of other cyclists who have lost their lives on dangerous roads. My eyes shed tears for his family and all individuals that were connected to him. My spirit does rejoice in knowing that he was connected with Jesus and that his eternal spirit is in Gods best care. I am confident in knowing that Gods Holy Spirit will comfort all family,friends and those who knew George and may Gods peace & healing take place as well. I also pray that many will be encouraged to truly connect with Jesus in a personal relationship and by doing so they are assured by God that they will see George again one day in Heaven.

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