Motivational Man: George Tribilcox

Man on a Pink Mission

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April 2019 Issue
by Donna Raboni Pizzolongo

George Tribilcox is a man who knows what he likes. He also knows how to get it when not within reach. George freely acknowledges that he is a fan of Pink magazine. Monthly, George would be on the lookout for the next issue. On one occasion a few years ago, George could not find a copy in the Beaufort area. Not wanting to miss a month of the magazine he so enjoys, he solved the problem quickly. He drove from his home on Fripp Island to the Hilton Head headquarters of Pink Magazine. Upon arrival, George shared he had driven over an hour for his monthly Pink fix.

“I was delighted by George’s unexpected visit,” said Pink Magazine’s Publisher, Elizabeth Millen. “First of all, he climbed the stairs to our office, which is no easy feat. Then he told us all how much Pink meant to him, and how he never misses a month. I was humbled he and his daughter drove all the way from Fripp to visit us, get a magazine, and purchase a subscription. I will never forget his effort, or his daughter’s patience and love. When someone goes out of the way this much to seek out your product, it better mean something to you. And it does. It’s been a few years since he came, however, when my staff and I met about this 15-year anniversary issue, we all remembered Mr. George and decided he had to be a part of it,” said Elizabeth.

“Life is what you make of it. Get all you can out of it.” This is some of the advice I received during a recent visit with Pink’s April Motivational Man. The 92-year-old living lesson in positivity offered me some other advice, which is also worth sharing, and I will a little later.

First, a little background regarding this fascinating man: Born in the coal mining town of Plymouth, Penn., George served in the Army Air Corp during WWII as an engineer. After his time in the service, he attended Bucknell University, under the GI Bill, earning a degree in Chemical Engineering.

George then went to work for HJ Heinz (yes, the ketchup company). He worked for them for 38 years. During his time with HJ Heinz he traveled internationally. His wife of 50 years, Mary Lou, and his two daughters spent 14-months living in Milan, Italy. His daughter told me the most memorable part of their time in Italy was seeing The Beatles in concert. After formally retiring, George was asked to travel to China on behalf of the company for an extended period of time.

George and his late wife settled on Fripp Island 34 years ago. The weather and location attracted them both. They enjoyed spending time with their daughters and eight grandchildren. George is now blessed with 11 great-grandchildren.

The first thing I noticed when walking into George’s home was the incredible number of photographs around the living room. Family photos—more than I could count—each photo with a story behind it. We talked about a picture taken last summer when George met two of his great-grandchildren for the first time—three people, generations apart, with smiles that wouldn’t quit.

A Christmas tree, fully decorated, sits in the corner of the living room. I told George I had thought a number of times about keeping my tree up all year round. He told me he doesn’t light it all year but there it sits to be enjoyed. There were Heinz ornaments on some of the branches.

George also has a great love of lighthouses. In the past, there were trips to visit lighthouses. If George could not find a souvenir lighthouse that matched the one he had just visited, he would make a replica of it himself. There is a case loaded with lighthouses in this memory-filled room.

As I asked George about his life, there were times when he would pause and look off in the distance as if traveling back in time. When I asked about Mary Lou, tears welled in his eyes; he couldn’t really talk about her. The love he had for her and the pain and emotion that impacted him from her passing was palpable.

Moving on to brighter topics, I asked about his philosophy, or advice, on how to live the best life. This time his words flowed quickly and easily:

George’s Advice:
1. Always do your best.
2. Do the job right.
3. Be fair with family.
4. Be fair in business dealings
5. Be useful.
6. Remember and share experiences.
7. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. You will waste time by not asking for help.
8.   Live life, love life. We are all lucky to be around each day.
9.   Life is the biggest gift of all.
10. Don’t give up. George hates to see people give up.
11. Family always matters.
12. When you hit bumps in the road, you need to continue and things will work out.

George shared another favorite picture. It appeared to be circa late 1950s and was of he, Mary Lou and their girls. I looked back and forth between the man in the photo and the one sitting in front of me. The younger man in the photo looked like a typical family man from that time. The years in between were, of course, evident. The wisdom and advice he shared may have been inside the man in the photo, but hearing his words more than a half a century later has stayed with me.

George saves positive and inspirational phrases. Sometimes he includes them in his Christmas cards. One of the plaques he shared with me read: “Young. Old. Just words.” – George Burns.

When I was given this month’s story assignment, George was referred to as our “April Motivational Man.” I was not quite sure what to expect, but as I drove away from his home and crossed the bridge off Fripp Island, I understood exactly why he had been selected: There is no way to spend time talking to George about life, love, and advice and not be inspired to embrace every day, every hour and every minute that is given to each of us.

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