Obituary: George Gibbs Engel Jr.
Winter Park pioneer George Gibbs Engel Jr. passed away Aug. 17, 2008 at the age of 87.
George was born on Dec. 28, 1920 in Athol, Mass. to George and Gladys Engel. At the age of 10, George was struck by a car while sledding, injuring his left arm. It never slowed him down, as he played hockey in high school and learned to ski.
George moved to Winter Park in 1945 to what was known then as Hideaway Park. In 1951, George met the love of his life, Joyce Hanna, through mutual friends, and after just four weeks asked her for her hand. They married six months later.
George was the first paid ski patrolman for the Winter Park Ski Area. George also owned and directed the Winter Park Ski School, which he later sold to the Winter Park Recreational Association in 1982. George was heralded for unique teaching methods. While director of the school, he formed the Eskimo Club, one of the largest children’s programs in the country. George and his wife, Joyce, also owned the Winter Park Ski Shop and Rental Shop.
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In 1964, a Winter Park Ski Trail was named in honor of George called “Engeldive”.
In 1987, he was inducted into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in recognition of his continuous personal commitment to skiing and his community. George was known to have helped many new ski instructors and many kids to get started by either giving them ski equipment or an end-of-season payment plan. George believed in the good of everybody.
George was at the foundation of many organizations. He was the founder and first president of the Rocky Mountain Ski Instructors Association. He was chief examiner for the Southern Rocky Mountain Ski Instructors Association in the mid-1950s and, in 1960, George was one of three on the steering committee that formed the Professional Ski Instructors Association.
In 1968, with the cooperation of the Denver Children’s Hospital, he was instrumental in the experimental amputee ski program at Winter Park, which evolved into the largest handicap program in America known as the National Sport Center for the Disabled.
George was on the board of the first Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District, which was formed to build Pole Creek Golf Course ” a course he loved to play as an avid golfer, playing until age 86. He once commented he had to give up his favorite fishing spot for the new golf course.
George helped started the first Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, and was on the first board of the Winter Park Sanitation District. Along with his wife, Joyce, and other prominent community businessmen, he helped start the Winter Park Horseman’s Association and High Country Stampede Rodeo in 1982.
George along with his wife, Joyce, was the recipient of many awards. In 2002, they were awarded the Citizens of the Year from the Middle Park Fair and Rodeo. In 2008, the Winter Park/Fraser Valley Chamber of Commerce honored them with the inaugural Pioneer Award, created by the chamber to recognize individuals who are influential in the community. Joyce and George Engel never thought of themselves as pioneers, but those who know them understand why the Engels didn’t just sit back and watch their community grow ” they played a vital role in making things happen.
George was quoted as saying, “We wanted our community to have all the things it should have.”
George’s daughters remember their father as a very gifted coach and teacher who was truly a gentleman and a man who touched and influenced many, many lives. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
He leaves to grieve his passing his wife of 57 years, Joyce, his two daughters, Wendy Christensen and Janet Engel both of Fraser; his grandchildren Kelly Stefanik and Jeff Christensen; his great grandchildren Dominik and Olivia Stefanik; his brother Don Engel and his sisters Connie Pederson and Doris Cline. He was preceded in death by his parents and a brother, David Engel.
A private family service will be held at a later date.
Memorials may be made in George’s honor to the Grand County Historical Association, P.O. Box 165, Hot Sulphur Springs, CO.
Funeral arrangements were entrusted to the care and direction of Foran-Schoenfeld Mortuary, Hot Sulphur Springs.
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