George Dondero passed away on June 22, 2021, at the age of 107 and a half, leaving behind a large collection of friends and family, all of whom admired him greatly.
George was born in 1913, a third-generation San Franciscan. He survived the Spanish Flu in 1918 and lived a very active life in the Bay Area. George was an adventurer, especially in his youth. He was an avid sailor on the S.F. Bay and an early skier (he first came to Sun Valley in the early 1940s). He was also a rock climber, an ice skater and ice dancer, an outdoorsman and an exceptional photographer. This past February, George’s account of scaling the Golden Gate Bridge solo in 1935 while it was under construction was a front-page story in the S. F. Chronicle.
George was incredibly skilled with his hands, especially when working with wood. During WWII he was a pattern maker, creating wooden patterns for metal castings. He held several patents for his novel designs born from his passion to make life better through new ideas.
George and his wife Betty raised their children, Barbara and John, in Marin County. In 1975, they made the difficult decision to move to Ketchum, leaving behind many of their good friends, although they maintained those treasured relationships throughout their lives. They never regretted the move and spent the next 34 years in the Wood River Valley. After building their house in Gimlet with their son in 1976, George went to work for Scott USA, where he helped develop several ski and motocross products. He later worked for JT USA making motocross and paintball goggles, sunglasses, and other protective gear. George also made seven goggle models for Smith Sport Optics. Among all these accomplishments, the product he took the most pride in helping to create was the first goggle for ESS, the same goggle that is still used by the U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, U.S. Marines, and countless firefighters.
George and Betty loved the Idaho outdoors. Their trailer or camper was always active in the summer, spring and fall and they cherished every opportunity to take their grandkids camping. In the winter, they XC skied and socialized with their friends. Both were known for their warmth and hospitality, and their knack for making friends wherever they went.
In 2010, George and Betty moved to the Seattle area, where they lived in an independent living facility. George became a favorite of the other residents and remained active, playing bridge and bocce ball, and nurturing his love of painting.
George will be remembered for his radiant smile, contagious laugh, his joyful way of seeing the humor in all the little things that life delivers and his wonderful talent for telling stories. To those who knew him, it will be no surprise to learn that George was telling stories right up to the end. His life was extraordinarily rich with family and friends, and he lived it with enthusiasm and positivity. George leaves behind his daughter Barb Duval, and his son and daughter-in-law John and Carey Dondero. He is also survived by his six grandchildren, Alyssa (Michael) Edwards, Steve (Cindy) Dondero, Will Duval, Kris Dondero, Charlotte (John) Flanagan, Kate (Carter) Minor and 11 great-grandchildren.
Despite what many of his friends and family were wondering, George’s passing showed that we cannot live forever. However, he showed everyone who knew him how to live life to the fullest, and that is a gift not to be forgotten.