Whether he was swinging around the dance floor, writing letters to his junior high school students from the Afghanistan desert, or chopping wood with his dad during weekends at Pigeon Lake, George savoured life and those he loved.

From an early age, George possessed depth of character. In his high school yearbook, he cited a moment that changed him: looking at the stars one night and knowing that there was more to life. George’s compassion for humanity compelled him to join the military in 1998, a year before he graduated from Archbishop Jordan High School in Sherwood Park. Four years later, while earning a degree from the University of Alberta, he volunteered for a tour of peacekeeping duty in Bosnia. George was grateful for all that Canada had provided to his family, and he wished to give his service in return.

George returned home from Bosnia and completed his degree in secondary education. He loved teaching and made a big impression on his students with his kind and generous nature. He was a natural leader, treating everyone with respect and making them feel special and loved.

After his first tour of duty in Afghanistan, he returned to Edmonton and worked at the Debney Armoury, then as apprentice carpenter before finding a job teaching Grade 7 at St. Cecilia’s Junior High School 2008-2009. He loved teaching and was torn between teaching and a desire to serve Canada. He returned for his second tour of duty in Afghanistan in September 2009 when he was killed. He talked about teaching to fellow soldiers and would probably have settled on that as his career.

A gifted athlete, George excelled at soccer, baseball, hockey, football and rugby. He also exhibited natural talent on the dance floor and was a member of the Csárdás Hungarian Folk Dance Ensemble in Edmonton from the time he was a little boy until his early twenties. George liked to socialize and watch movies with his family and friends, but he also enjoyed the solitude of going for long runs at night.

George was avidly interested in his Hungarian heritage and participated in many events in the local community. When he went to visit his father’s family in Yugoslavia, he studied their names until he’d memorized them all. His 64 relatives were shocked when he arrived in Yugoslavia and greeted them all by name—he had not seen them since he was five years old.

George was proud of the changes that he saw in Afghanistan. He committed his life to helping people, whether he was in Bosnia or Afghanistan, at school with his students or at home with his family. His strength, gentle heart and joy for life radiated through his infectious, genuine smile.

Sarah J. Den Boer

Portrait by Cindy Revell