Flags are flying at half-mast today at Keuka College and the Keuka Park U.S. Post Office in honor of a man whose work ethic, service, and spirit stand as an inspiration to many.
George Slocum, whose 50-year service record to the College and its students was recognized earlier this year with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at commencement in May, died Sunday, Oct. 30 at the age of 75. Slocum, who officially retired in June, had been battling cancer and passed away surrounded by all of his family members, including his wife, children and grandchildren, as well as his brother, sister, and nieces.
Slocum began in 1961, as a groundskeeper, at a rate of $1.30/hour. For most of his tenure, he supervised general electrical, plumbing and interior work at Space, Blyley and Saunders residence halls and also handled all mail deliveries between the U.S. Post Office and the campus mailroom and copy center.
Dan DeMay, grounds manager for the College, has worked on campus 32 years and even worked in the Branchport-Keuka Park Fire Department with Slocum, who was a past fire commissioner. The fire department held a fund-raiser breakfast for Slocum Oct. 23 to defray medical expenses and DeMay said the guest of honor was able to attend, along with many family members and friends from both the College and local community. DeMay said he had hoped to send Slocum on a plane ride over the Finger Lakes about a week ago but Slocum suffered a fall the morning the flight was scheduled.
“George was highly respected – just the kindest, most loving man, the most honest person I’ve ever met,” DeMay said. “He was always a father figure to me, so I always called him ‘Uncle George.’ His wife called me Sunday about 4:30 in the morning and said George was calling for me. I went up to the house quickly, because I live close. I talked with George and he told me that he knew it was time and he was ready to go.
“He was certainly surrounded by his family when he passed – there were people three and four deep all around his bed. I couldn’t think of a more loving way to go – to be completely surrounded by your family and friends and neighbors. ”
“What a wonderful man,” said DeMay. “I called everyone (from the facilities department) last night. Several of us went to the house through the weekend, and there were a few of us at his house last night, but [there’s] a lot of long faces today.”
Slocum held a second job, a part-time shift cleaning the Keuka Park post office after working 7 – 3:30 daily on campus, for close to 35 years. According to Roseann Marchenese, officer in charge, as recently as two weeks ago, Slocum came to the post office on his cane, intent on dusting and vacuuming and tried to get the vacuum cleaner out.
“I told him, ‘No, George, you get the feather duster and I’ll vacuum,’” Marchenese recalled. “He went around with the duster in one hand and his cane in the other. He was the sweetest man you’d ever want to meet, kind and knew everyone that walked in the door. He absolutely will be missed by everyone in Keuka Park.”
Indeed, local residents stopping in to the post office this morning all expressed the same reaction at news of his passing: deep sighs, and a shake of the head, then sympathy to the staff who had worked with him. The deep respect Slocum garnered from his neighbors was evident as those in line paused to hear words of praise for the man so devoted to his work and community.
“He is an inspiration in so many areas of his life – a love for life, for Christ, for his family, for the College, for this community,” said Heather Bassett, another post office staffer, adding how grateful she was that Slocum had friends visiting him “all the time” since his home care began. “He’s a perfect example of an upstanding person, how life should be, despite the struggles he had and I know he had them. What stands out is just how faithful he was.”
When recognizing Slocum in May for his 50-year service record to the College, Joseph Burke, now president emeritus, said Slocum portrayed a value sometimes lost in today’s America: sticking with a long-term commitment over time.
“He’s somebody in the organization that may not be at the top but helps create a keen appreciation of what our college is all about. George is the epitome of that kind of person,” Burke said then, adding that Slocum represented many other staffers who quietly do their jobs, come in early and stay late at night. “We’re not going to see another George Slocum for a long time.”
Slocum’s responsibilities took him daily to the campus mailroom and copy center, where Teri Spoor, site manager, and Wendy Wright, on-site specialist, said today they were fortunate and honored to have known “such an unselfish and caring man.”
“His love of life and strong work ethic was an inspiration to all of us. We could always count on George to make us laugh with a funny story. George loved our students and made a point of asking about each of them, every day. He left his mark on every life he touched, and we feel privileged to have known him,” said Spoor. “Words cannot express how deeply we cared about George – a great man who will be missed forever.”
Calling hours for George Slocum will be Thursday, Nov. 3 from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. at Weldon Funeral Home, 102 East Main St., Penn Yan.
The funeral is Friday, Nov. 4 at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church, 224 Main St., Penn Yan.
Sympathy cards may be sent to George’s wife:
P.O. Box 122
Penn Yan, N.Y. 14478
We invite you to share your memories of George and condolences for his family by leaving a comment below.