Sunday, April 7, 2019

In Memoriam: George Courage (1943-2019)

A dark-bearded George Courage with the board of the NHT, 1981! (Source: The Trident)

George Robert Courage
November 24, 1943 - April 05, 2019

I was saddened today to hear of the passing of George Courage, one of the great supporters and animators of the heritage conservation movement in St. John’s. I met George shortly after I started working at the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1996. It wasn’t hard at that point to cross paths with George in heritage circles; he seemed to be everywhere I went.  At that point, he had already been involved with the heritage community for decades.

In the 1980s, George had been one of the Newfoundland Historic Trust volunteers who had organized their downtown historic walking tours, and had helped organize the first Old Home Renovation Fair. He was a dedicated heritage volunteer, and I was fortunate to serve as a board member under him during his (second) time as president of the Trust. He served twice as president, at least once as treasurer, and fulfilled other committee positions. He was on the Association of Heritage Industries Steering Committee, was secretary of the Newfoundland Historical Society, treasurer of HFNL, and a volunteer with Doors Open.

I probably got to know George best a few years after I met him. In 1999, he headed up a project on behalf of the Trust for Soiree 1999 to commemorate the fiftieth year of Confederation. George had an idea to curate an exhibit of house models, and he roped me into his scheme. He scoured both Town and Bay to find models and miniatures of traditional Newfoundland houses and buildings: everything from doll houses and church models to pieces of folk art he convinced people to let him borrow off their lawns. He, along with Nancy Cook and Ruth Canning, wrote up a catalog with a history of each of these quirky pieces of art, and the whole thing went up on display at the old Art Gallery in the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre.  In 2001, George was awarded the Manning Award by the Historic Sites Association of Newfoundland and Labrador for the exhibit, recognizing him for Excellence in the Public Presentation of Historic Places.  It was a lot of fun, and a great introduction to the sort of engaging programming that a young public folklorist like me might be able to do in the future.

For the past two decades, I was sure to run into George at heritage events, markets, downtown rambles, and city meetings. He was eternally active, engaged, and curious, and always had a moment to chat. He was a gentleman.

I’ll miss him, and his infectious grin. Thank you, George, for being one of my heritage mentors.

- Dale Jarvis

1 comment:

Ken O’Brien said...

Well said, Dale. George was passionate about heritage. I met him through the City of St. John’s Heritage Advisory Committee, which he graced with practical advice. May he rest in peace.