George Best holds the Proclamation announcing Aug. 4 as George Best Day. Photo by Chad Lauritzen
By BERNADETTE LAURITZEN
Los Alamos Retired and Senior Organization
George Best is first in our hearts here at the Los Alamos Retired and Senior Organization (LARSO).
This Los Alamos Living Treasure will go from two to three digits Tuesday, Aug. 4 when he officially becomes a centenarian. Turning 100 has a special recognition for Best – the Los Alamos County Council has proclaimed Aug. 4 “George Best Day” in Los Alamos.
“I was born in Chicago and grew up in Berwyn, which is west of Chicago,” Best said. “I had four brothers, I was the second oldest, so I have always been, ‘Second Best’.”
Best has been an asset to the community, serving many roles throughout his time on the Hill.
“When we moved to Los Alamos in late 1949, we only expected to stay for a few years … that was 71 years ago!” he said.
After the family arrived in town, they were joined by a son and another daughter, three children in all.
Best was surprised by family members and his best friend Leon Heller with an unofficial front porch ceremony Sunday, bestowing the honor of the proclamation.
LARSO, which operates the Betty Ehart and White Rock senior centers, worked with the Los Alamos County Council to request the recognition. The County allowed the proclamation to be delivered after assurances that appropriate protocols would be followed including masks, gloves and social distancing.
Heller was asked to read the formal document to Best, a duty he graciously accepted, telling Best it was his honor to do so.
When Best arrived in 1949, little did the community know the many roles he would play. He has volunteered for numerous groups and organizations. It started in the early 1950s helping to establish the Unitarian Fellowship and serving on the governing board. He helped build and maintain Pajarito Ski Area, sat on several Los Alamos County boards, supported the establishment of Sombrillo and served on the governing board. He has volunteered for Common Cause at both the national and state level and served as a tour guide at Ghost Ranch.
Best studied physics, math and chemistry at Purdue University and graduated with a B.S at 21. Immediately after graduating he joined the U.S. Navy and served until the end of WWII. He started out as an ensign and ended as a lieutenant, working in radar on destroyers in the South Pacific.
He met his wife Elizabeth Fish when he tutored her in physics at Purdue University. They were married during the war and remained married for 65 years.
“After I was discharged from the Navy, I earned a PhD in physics at Northwestern University. Our oldest daughter was born shortly before I earned my degree,” Best said. “After graduating from North Western I accepted a job offer to work as a physicist in Los Alamos.”
Best retired in 1982 after 34 years with Los Alamos National Laboratory and continued with contract work. His son Guy said Best also played a role in excavating the Seismosaurus, which is on display today at the New Mexico Natural History Museum.
“No matter how busy he is, dad always has time for his family,” daughter Martha said from Australia. “When we were children, we loved picnics and hikes with friends, as well as family holidays, fishing trips, skiing together and outings to museums, concerts and factories.”
It was through these experiences and dinner table discussions about politics and current affairs that the Best children learned about the wider world and all it had to offer, they said.
Until the pandemic began, Best was volunteering at Del Norte Credit Union (DNCU) where he has served for more than three decades. At its July meeting, DNCU paid tribute to Best and his 34 years of service, DNCU Chief Marketing Organizer Kim Currie said. That work included the dedication of the Stutz-Best community room when the White Rock branch opened in 2016.
“I have a high level of respect for George Best. He is a great role model for volunteering so much time in worthwhile endeavors, such as at Bandelier National Monument and Del Norte Credit Union,” DNCU Board Member Benito Salazar said.
Best was still volunteering at Bandelier National Monument when the world changed on that day in March.
If you asked Best what his favorite age was, his answer is “every age”. He wouldn’t change a thing if he had it to do all over again, Best said. When pressed about his greatest accomplishment, he said, “I don’t think of anything that stands out.”
To honor this remarkable man and make his 100th birthday extra special, our local senior centers conspired with his daughter Sarah to collect 100 birthday cards for him to open between July 4 and Aug. 4. Best has received well over 100 cards with more arriving.
The final celebratory activity to honor Best includes a drive-by parade on his birthday.
The Council proclamation asks community members to do a good deed for a senior citizen in the community as another way to honor Best.
Celebrating his 100th birthday Aug. 4, George Best, center, and his daughter Sarah Roybal and son Guy Best. They were part of a surprise presentation Sunday to honor their father with a proclamation from the Los Alamos County Council. The fun festivities celebrating Best’s birthday have included the secret collection by LARSO of more than 150 birthday cards from all over the nation congratulating Best on his special day. Photo by Chad Lauritzen