“If you sit on the couch and do nothing, then nothing will happen to you.” For 61 years, this was the mantra by which George Chappell lived. This philosophy took him all over the United States and the world in his personal life, and through a remarkable variety of experiences in his work life. When George’s extraordinary journey on this earth ended on June 22, 2020, he left behind a family with fond memories, too many friends to count, and satisfaction with a life well-lived. In many ways, George personified a modern “Renaissance Man”.
Born to Charles Ellis Chappell, Sr. and Virginia Lee Eubank Chappell at St. Mary’s Hospital in Huntington, WV on Christmas Eve, 1958, George took to the Tri-State area stage at an early age. He played violin from the age of 6 and viola from the age of 9, performing with the Huntington Chamber Orchestra, Marshall Univ. Symphony Orchestra, Cabell County Youth Symphony Orchestra, WV All-State Orchestra and Marshall Univ. String Quartet. As a regular player in the local musical theater scene, George and his vibrant tenor appeared as Harold Hill in “The Music Man”, as Billy Bigelow in “Carousel”, and in supporting roles in “Oliver”, “Beauty and the Beast”, “Amahl and the Night Visitors” and “1776”. His relationship with high school music director Janice Chandler Gold spanned 30 years, including membership in her school group “Lads and Lassies” and Renaissance Choir in his adult years.
George grew up watching the United States land men on the moon; this drove his childhood ambition to follow in their footsteps as an astronaut. After George graduated from Huntington East High School in 1977, he pursued an engineering degree at Marshall Univ. with an eye toward joining the space program. However, it was the Geology department that eventually provided him with his academic home. George reasoned that, if NASA sent one geologist to the moon – Harrison Schmitt – then they might send a second one! Although he never made it into space, George’s friendships with the professors in this department lasted a lifetime and molded his professional future. He earned his B.S. in 1981 and his Master’s Degree in 1988.
An accomplished rock climber, George scaled the summit of the Matterhorn in 1980 during geology field camp in Switzerland, followed by a month exploring the great cities of Europe. His passion for rock climbing and travel took him to 5 continents and over 20 countries, and influenced another favorite saying: “It’s never the fall. It’s the sudden stop at the bottom.” George’s many adventures led to quite a few visits to hospitals, but they never slowed him down for long; almost any friend or colleague of George will have a story to tell about a mishap that would have sent most men home for the day. Not George Chappell. Even with broken bones or dislocated joints, George insisted “the show must go on.”
George’s work life spanned the private and public sectors, and included work with Petty Ray Geophysical (Geologist 1984-85), WV DNR (Geologist/Project Mgr. 1986-88), Almes & Associates Consulting Engineers (Geologist/Project Mgr. 1988-89) GAI Consultants (Geologist/Project Mgr. 1991-94), Summit Engineering (Geologist/Project Mgr. 1999-2002), WV Division of Highways (Geologist, Senior Appraiser, Trans. Engr. Tech., Project Manager 2002-2018) and Marshall Univ. Adjunct Faculty (1986-93). George became the youngest person to head a state agency in WV when he was appointed Executive Director of the fledgling WV Solid Waste Management Board in 1989. As a residential contractor, George designed and built houses for over 20 years. George took particular pride in his work with the WV Division of Highways, as his knowledge and efforts helped build hundreds of miles of safe roads for his fellow West Virginians.
George was blessed with two families in his lifetime. With his first wife, Jean (Hill), he fathered two sons, George Allen, Jr. of Charlottesville, VA and David Charles of Charleston. When he married his surviving wife, Leah (Taylor) and moved to Ravenswood, WV, he became bonus dad to Anthony T. Boggs and Mychal N. Boggs. George considered himself privileged to watch all four boys grow into men while passing along pearls of wisdom like . . . the most efficient way to dig a hole. His proudest moments have come from sharing in the goals these young men accomplished in the too-few years he had with them.
George is predeceased by his parents, and is also survived by his siblings Virginia Lee Chappell and Mark Edward Chappell of Huntington and Charles Ellis Chappell, Jr. of Marietta, GA, along with numerous nieces and nephews.
During George’s courageous three-year battle with uveal melanoma, he often stayed at the Family House Shadyside in Pittsburgh. The Family House program in Pittsburgh operates 3 facilities which provide reduced-cost long- and short-term housing to patients receiving treatment at Pittsburgh area hospitals and their families. George will be forever grateful to the staff at Family House Shadyside for the kindness and friendship they showed him during difficult times. His fervent wish, even during cancer treatment, was to be productive. Family House helped George fulfill this wish, enlisting him as a spokesperson for fundraising and consulting with him on the design of their newest facility. George asks that, in lieu of flowers (or just because it’s a good cause), you donate generously to the Family House program through their website – www.familyhouse.org.
George’s family would also like to express their appreciation to HospiceCare for the support, care and kindness provided to George in his final month. They were an invaluable resource for George and his family during a very difficult time.
Visitation at Waybright Funeral Home in Ripley, WV will take place Thursday, June 25 from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. Funeral service will be Friday, June 26 at 10:00 a.m. at Waybright, followed by a 2:00 p.m. graveside service at High Lawn Memorial Park, 1435 Main Street East, Oak Hill, WV.
Memories and condolences may be shared withteh family by visiting www.waybrightfuneralhome.com