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George E. Westerlund, Jr, 92, went to be with his Lord and Savior on Sunday, July 30th, at home, attended by his wife of sixty-one years. He leaves a devoted wife, Lois Hofmann Westerlund, and three loved children: Eric George Westerlund, his wife Mandy and granddaughter Ramona (Nyack, NY); Christina Nell Westerlund of Christian Aid Mission (Charlottesville, VA); and Charissa Westerlund Lyons, her husband Mark and grandchildren Corinne, Linnea, Joshua, Andrew, Noelle and Mae (Windham, NH). He also leaves a loved sister, Virginia Sipp, nephews Allan and Roger and niece Kimberly (Ocean Ridge, Fl) He is predeceased by his father, George E. Westerlund, Sr., mother, Mae Lehto Westerlund, and brother-in-law Allan Sipp, Sr.
We, his family, cannot recall his life without a smile; he went through life making people laugh in response to some silly comment that he knew would work. In the supermarket, he would greet a shopping family with the question, “Who’s in charge here?”. Arriving at the checkout before me, he would say, solemnly,” My wife has left me,” only to have the checker laugh when I showed up.
He was a man of many loves. He loved God‘s world. He loved to hike to the mountain top (sometimes bringing all of us), to canoe triumphantly down a waterfall, to bike through the neighborhood, stopping for friendly chats.
He loved books—one of our caregivers said she had never seen a home with so many books. Before leaving Westminster Seminary, he acquired a theological library. When we married and moved into our first apartment, I thought we might dine, sit, and sleep on piles of books, since we had no furniture, but we did have books, books and more books.
He loved the Word of God. Having disarmed strangers by his humor, he would then mention, just as a matter of interest, that he liked to lead discussions on the Bible, asking three questions: What does it say, what did it mean to those to whom it was addressed, and what does it mean to me? His love of inductive Bible study came from his years on the staff of Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship—his territory was Indiana and Kentucky! He loved visiting campuses, meeting with students, leading discussions in fraternity houses. He studied the Bible, committing it to memory. He loved its Truth, that we are sinners, needing to know Christ as Savior, and follow Him as Lord. When, in our 70’s, we helped out with The UVA Grad Student Fellowship, and the speaker of the evening failed to mention sin, George would bring it up, as soon as the floor was opened to discussion. As Facilities Manager at the Providence Public Library, writing notes to colleagues who had suffered a loss, he found a verse of scripture to include. In later years he usually ended a conversation by quoting Ephesians. 2:6. Even in the final weeks of his life, I would begin the quote and he would join me, supplying what I had forgotten: “Walk ye in Him, rooted and grounded and built up in the faith, abounding therein with thanksgiving.”
He loved his family, in ways that sometimes went unappreciated at the time. Though an engineer by trade he was at heart a musician and an artist, an architect and explorer, a passionate photographer. He taught us about music, mountain climbing, problem-solving, hard work and financial responsibility. He took his children to art museums, sharing his love of art, and acute perceptions. He was resourceful: the children have been talking about a hard time when he was for the moment a single dad because he was between jobs and I was working evenings to support the family. Through wacky food inventions served up at dinner time, he turned a troubled time into a time of good memories--the kids still laugh about “hippopotamus head”. If there was only egg atop the hash, it was a “cyclops.”
He loved the God he came to know, first as a boy growing up in Brooklyn, in the famed Finnish coop apartments; he was confirmed in a Finnish-speaking Lutheran church. Spending summers on his grandmother’s farm near Beach Pond, CT. he gazed one evening on the beauty of lake and sky and stars and thought, there must be an awesome God to create such a beautiful world. He benefitted from the required Bible courses at Geneva College, where he began, and later enjoyed the fellowship of fellow Christian students in Pittsburgh where he finished at Carnegie Tech University. Keeping Geneva’s requirement to attend a church of his choice, he was reciting the liturgy in a Lutheran church one Sunday morning and thought, “This is what I really believe.” He cited this as a significant moment.
When dementia assaulted his mind, he came through the initial anger and frustration, to a spirit of contentment and thankfulness. He loved remaining at home in the beautiful house that he designed on a cove of Lake Monticello, with a window wall looking out on the cove and main lake, and the hickory, oak and pine trees. ‘Mina rakastan sinua” was a phrase I heard every day. It is Finnish for “I love you.” He maintained it meant more in Finnish than in English.
George had a heart of love; now he is with the Savior who loved him first. I shall miss sitting on our deck, serenading our lake neighbors with a duet, singing “How Great Thou Art!”, his voice still surprisingly strong, and on pitch. Now he has joined the heavenly chorus. With grateful hearts, we honor his memory, and look forward to joining him.
A funeral service will be conducted at 12:30 PM on Monday, August 7, 2023 at Thacker Brothers Lake Monticello Funeral Home by Pastor Scott Boren. Burial will follow in Scottsville Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to Christian Aid Mission, https://www.christianaid.org
Family and friends may share memories and photos at www.thackerbrothers.com.