Tribute: My Cousin and Surrogate Big Brother, George “Jorge” Knott (1956-2012)

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You could always hear his smile

Gorge - Squamish (or, Stawamus) Chief,  Canada

That’s the photo of himself he used for his Facebook Timeline; I figure it’s one of his favorites, and it’s one of mine, too.

Here’s another.

The Gang
The Gang

That’s sometime mid-60s, me to the right, Jorge to the left and his brother Steve—between 3-4 weeks my senior—in the middle. Notice who I was looking at. Jorge was born in February of 1956 and me, just shy of being 5 years junior, January of 1961. Early Jan for Steve, late Jan for me.

I like how that I, at least, dressed up for the event, complete with bow tie and suspenders. What’s interesting is that those those three kids up there ultimately, many years later, came to share an intellectual view about human existence that is quite apart from pretty much anyone and everyone else in our entire family.

I also like to think that one of the reasons Jorge and I got along as we did—he never spoke a cross or admonishing word to me in all my life—was that he grew up with one younger brother and that one younger brother was almost identical in age. I’m sure Steve was the one who caught any “bad side” of Jorge, if it even existed, and it was spent by the time he got around to me.

Jorge died last sunday evening, on the eve of a trans-Atlantic cruise from Miami, to be accompanied by a cousin from his dad’s side, from Austria. …It was supposed to be a fun, post-run swim in the ocean. He got caught in a rip current and didn’t make it out alive. It was especially devastating to me, because Jorge has long been a rock climber and mountaineer, two things requiring very specific knowledge about what can kill you. And, he was a lifelong and enthusiastic teacher of both.

A little rest
A little rest

My first true experience with Jorge the teacher was when I was somewhere around 12 or so. He grew up in the Bay Area where I live now, and I, in Reno, NV. He was there for a time during the early 70s and both he and his brother were pretty accomplished skiers. I was still some years away from becoming very good at it, but on this day, we loaded up into the car—he was maybe 16 or 17—and headed up to Mt. Rose, the highest peak in the Tahoe region. We skied the day and then at the end, he says, “let’s ski down to Galena Creek and hitch a ride back up.” Having had my dad tell stories about how he and his brothers used to do this at the end of the day, I was game. It’s quite a long trek, perhaps a few thousand feet vertical, and there’s no prepared surfaces. You’re just navigating through the trees on powder. But we made it, hitchhiked back up the highway to the car, and that was that. But all along the way, he had his eye on me, encouraging me, reassuring against any fears I expressed.

I had no concept at the time—it would be years until I found myself living in and traveling foreign countries—but Jorge’s parents had a foresight of wisdom that had him doing regular trips to Europe on his own as a young teen.


“Hey kid, here’s a plane ticket, a backpack and some cash. Make the most of it. Learn a thing or two while you’re at it.”

Jorge went on to attend UC Berkley under a Navy scholarship and upon graduation, went to flight school in Pensacola, FL.

Eye on the Meatball
Eye on the Meatball

…But just prior to his reporting for that, something happened that was to change the course of my own life. My dad was a Air Force guy, a jet engine mechanic and I had grown up with the stories. As happenstance would have it, there was a period of time between Jorge’s graduation and commissioning and his showing up, so he was assigned temporary duty to Fallon Naval Air Station, about an hour or so from Reno. And one day, he showed up in uniform, at my school, sporting the shiny bars of a new Ensign. The very next day I was in my dad’s truck, camera in hand to go visit him at Fallon NAS.

One of many views that day
One of many views that day

I spent the whole day, saw every sight I could get my eyeballs on, and was all ears all the time.

About 5 years or so later, I too got my commission as a US Navy Officer. Steve, Jorge’s brother and also a graduate of Berkley, took a commission with the Marine Corps. A year prior, while on my Midshipman summer cruise, I got to see Jorge on a refueling stop in Japan, at a P-3 base in Hokkaido.

I think it must have been several years before I saw him again. Some months before I left Japan in ’89, I was back home after almost 5 years, on a temporary duty assignment for just a few days. My mom arranged a dinner. Knowing by then I’d be back and going to the language school in Monterey (DLI) in a few months, I went looking for a car and I bought a Corvette to store until my return. So, Jorge shows up. I show him my new car and he looks at me with a wide grin and says, as though it was an unexpected discovery—I said right up front that you can always hear his smile—”Rick, that’s your dick!”

If there was an implicit admonishment there, it was only for me to think about.

Within a few months I was at DLI in Monterey, and he was teaching physics at the Naval Postgraduate School, also in Monterey. It seems odd to me now, that in that six months or so I was there, we got together only a few times. We were young. The world is still so enormous. Everyone has places to go, people to see.

Jorge went on to do his regular Navy tours and at some point he got off active duty, became a reservist, moved to Sacramento, got a most wonderful cottage in an awesome neighborhood, and began a second career teaching physics at a local community college. It was only a few years ago that he completed that assignment and focussed his life on friends, family, and every adventure he could get his hands on.

I don’t know the details and as much as I’ve spoken with him over the last few years, refrained from asking. He had developed kidney disease, likely as a cause of one or more important bouts of dehydration on some of his hiking and mountaineering trips. I believe there was one in particular, in South America, but I’m not sure. Like I said, I never asked.

That’s because he would not slow down, ever. In the last few years, he’s been traveling, exploring, adventuring almost non-stop.

There you go
There you go

Having a blog and even a Facebook relationship made things different. You consider that original B&W photo up top. But we lived in different places, saw each other at holidays and other important events; everyone has their own life to lead and so on. But having this blog changed things between us, profoundly so, and I’ve exchanged more thoughts with Jorge in the past few years than all the rest of life combined.

It went like this: Hit publish and about 10 minutes later my cell would ring. He loved my blog, and it’s not at all because he agreed with everything. Hell, he probably didn’t agree with a lot or most of it. I never cared. He only encouraged me to keep writing it. It was only a few weeks back when he rang me up and I spoke of some of the things I was doing in terms of shutting down my company, trying to figure out what to do, etc., and he said to me, in that smile I could always hear, “Richard, you’re a writer.”

I still don’t believe that, but I’m at least taking it more seriously, now.

You got it
You got it

In this end, which so sucks because I have only in these last few days begun to understand the enormity of what his life was attempting to teach, Jorge was the best sort of teacher. He taught what he loved and was passionate about but so lived it, too. “Frugal” would be the wrong word to use, because it implies some ethic employed for its own sake. No, Jorge simply had little use for what wasn’t immediately and regularly useful. A small, 2-beroom house that was paid off for years was plenty. He could put up his guests. A car that got him where he wanted to be and back was enough. This modest lifestyle has been a thing of envy for me for a long time, more so now than ever.

Jorge was never, ever the custodian of a bunch of largely useless stuff. He was never flashy. He impressed people by means of his friendly character…never wit, sarcasm, intelligence or how well read he was.

Chill man
Chill, man

Well, as I told his brother in an email exchange yesterday, life will never again be the same without him…and that’s life.

I don’t know, there’s no data I’m aware of, but it seems to me that those who live the biggest lives often get to live them for less time. Which one would you choose?

Just look at the view
Just look at the view!

Jorge is survived by both of his parents, his brother, and a multitude of family, friends and ex-lovers.

Jorge and Beth 2006
Jorge and Beth, 2006

He was 50; she, an absolutely luscious 20, working on her degree in geology. I was visiting them in their Sacramento home and shot this at morning coffee.

He’s also survived by his dog, which Beth will be taking back with her.

Yea buddy
Yea buddy (last month, hot springs near Bishop, CA)

I would appreciate comments. However, I already know my loss and it pales in comparison to Jorge’s own, and the loss of others, including his surviving mom and dad, and his brother. If I may, can I request that if you post a comment, you tell us what this means to you, beyond just an expression of sorrow for a loss? Jorge was a teacher, and if I have managed to stumble through this and give you something to think about in terms of advancing your own life in terms of getting along or adventure, please do.

Think and Smile
Think and Smile

And if you had the privilege of knowing Jorge, I would love to hear of your favorite anecdotes, stories, lessons. I’ve assembled some favorite pics of mine, about 75 or so right here, on Facebook. (Update: someone asked for potentially higher resolution for prints, so I created a Set at Flikr.)

I will miss you forever, “big brother.”

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  1. You have given Jorge a wonderful tribute and honor. He was true to himself, noble, giving, lovely and honorable. Yes, it appears that you, Richard, were given a gift by Jorge that will last a lifetime…and if you listen closely, you will ALWAYS hear him smile. The heartbreak goes away after a while, but your wonderful memories are forever.

  2. Kelvin Parker says:

    The connection you had with Jorge was one most never know, Richard …

    Live life NOW and live it LARGE … be passionate, be REAL, and love a lot. That is the message I take away …

  3. Jaime says:

    Thank you for sharing this, and thank you for reminding me that there is so much out there to see and experience. Jorge must have been a truly inspirational person and I’m sure his legacy and memory will continue to inspire you and others to achieve and grow beyond perceived boundaries. This is a beautiful tribute. And I’d also like to offer thanks for your and your family’s military service.

  4. Paleophil says:

    @Richard: Sorry about your friend, Jorge. Best wishes.

  5. What I see in those pictures and in your story, is a man who knew how to live life. He looks like someone I would have liked to have known. How lucky you are to have known him so well. My condolences, Richard.

  6. Thanks for this. I only ever knew George as a professor/friend from his time at CRC; it was nice to get a family perspective. He was truly a rich man and a towering example of how being good to people and doing things you enjoy are all that matters in the end.

    The picture of him and Beth gave me a good chuckle. Being a bunch of 18-19 year old kids ourselves at the time, I remember those of us who were acquainted with the two of them before they started dating being rather in awe of George. “We’re not worthy” and such. Good times.

    • Kyle

      Thanks for being such a great sport, man. I was worried about that pic with him and Beth. That it might be taken in a way I would not want. But this was a big part of his most recent life. And they had so many mutual friends.

      • Rick,
        Thank you so much for posting the earlier years of his life and how he was to you. I’ve often wondered if he had changed over the years, or if he was always the same type of person. I guess I should have known that a good heart is not something you learn. He was so, so much to me. The picture of us made me sob. Everyone loved him so much, I just happened to be the most open about it in his later years. Most of the time to his embarrassment, but I couldn’t help it, and I never stopped.

        Bobby “the dog” started half whining/ half sobbing last night in his sleep. I’d never heard a dog make those sounds before. I can’t help but think he was dreaming of Jorge. BTW, Jorge would appreciate if I mentioned Bobby’s full name for the permanent record: Mr. Robert A. Squeaker Puff (where “A” doesn’t actually stand for anything). Only a guy like Jorge would do that.

        Thank you for posting your comments. I had forgotten those early days when Jorge was our mini celebrity. He was just so cool that we couldn’t get enough of him! Jorge was always so fond of you. He said you were “a good kid” with the utmost sincerity. Thanks for the memories.

  7. Steamboat Operator says:

    Life is a joke and the quicker we all realize that, that we will all lose everything we ever love or enjoy, the better laugh we can have at life’s expense. Living life to the fullest, the biggest, blah blah blah, it’s all bullshit and entirely subjective. Stop pretending to know how life should be lived, instead concentrate on living life on your terms, in a way that maximizes your enjoyment – without fucking with anyone else, or at least being conscience of it when your encroaching. Surround yourself with as many people who encourage you to live free and with little compromise.

    To enjoy the ride and not be a cunt – that’s what I draw from this.

  8. “He impressed people by means of his friendly character”

    What a huge rock of a description. I have been looking forward to this post. Getting a glimpse of
    what gives people pause often shifts my thinking. Sometimes my feeling. If I lean into it, a life shift.

    Your post hit many emotional fire points. Enough so that I am awkward in commenting. In my case, it is a good thing. It is weighty.

    Odd how we humans do this connecting with one another. Shared experiences. Even with people of people we have never shared a meal with.

    I am grateful.

    What you just did is life after life. I tip my hat to his life well lived.

  9. BabyGirl says:

    That made me cry.

    • Baby Girl. I wrote it so it would make me cry, cause that’s the only standard of cry I know.

      Glad to help out a bit.

      • BabyGirl says:

        I’ve thought further about your cousin and his untimely death and your love for him. Also, fining out about his life and accomplishments, and then of course I’ve read some of yours here at your blog.

        And that leads me to this: Would you maybe consider putting stories of your parents and grandparents and how you all were raised on your list of “Things I might write about at some point?”

        It seems to me that there are not too many folks left that can or are raising kids the way you & your cousins were raised. You all grew up to be remarkable accomplished men and the “how” is very interesting to me.

        I find myself wondering about your grandparents & parents, the back story about who raised these remarkable men. What experiences formed them, and such like.

        Thinking back on my own parents lives, one who was born at the tail end of the Depression and one who was born during WWII, I seem to remember that for my grandparenst, child rearing back in the day was often a case of lots of hard work keeping in just keeping a roof over everyone’s head more than some kind of “parenting style.”

        But I also remember that generation’d deep appreciation for family and I see that reflected in what you write.

        So it seems to me that what your parents and grandparents did is pretty interesting and maybe some time down the road you could write about that. Because Richard, you are a writer.

        Hey, maybe even a memoir. I’m seeing it as something as a cross between “Angela’s Ashes” and “The Liar’s Club’ but with more happiness.

  10. Jay Jay says:

    God bless George. We need more like him.

  11. Steve Knott says:

    I agree with my brother that my cousin is a writer.

  12. Chris Gabel says:

    Ditto with your cousins. Obviously, you are a writer – after all, you’ve got thousands of people taking the trouble to view your blog on a regular basis. That’s not to say you’re ONLY a writer, there’s always more. Your writing is heavily based in experience. So, you know, keep experiencing.

  13. Steve Knott says:

    I think that the powerful rock climber in the orange shorts and blue shirt is Susan Anzalone.

    • Steve

      Thanks for the correction. I’d assumed it was him because someone posted it to his FB timeline. I’ve replaced it with one that leaves no doubt.

  14. Great, great post. I’m crying.

    May we all have such a perceptive, thoughtful, loving witness.

    He was right, Richard: You ARE a writer.

  15. Eric Adair says:

    Thank you for a terrific tribute to friendship, to family, and to a life well lived. I never met Jorge but I heard much about him from his brother Steve, my friend and colleague of more than 20 years. Sincere condolences to all.

  16. Pauline says:

    We felt your loss Richard as an echo of all our own real and potential losses that life may bring.. I have always felt you are someone who has stories to tell, many stories. I have always felt a connection to death, I read it everyday in the news all over the world and wonder always that I am still here, what luck! I still have time to work things out, to play the game. I experienced loss at a very young age, its made me realise how short life is. Here is a song I have been listening to for the last few weeks:

  17. marie says:

    Thank you for writing so well Richard and for sharing your writing. Jorge seems to have been that rare, natural teacher…and so are you. When I saw Jorge hanging under the cliff and your question about living life large or long, I remembered a scene I should never forget : witnessing rock-climbers on smooth cliffs over a calm Aegean sea, mom gasps : “Oh my god, why would they do something like that, don’t they love their life?” Little brother : but mom, that IS loving life.” Thank you for the reminder.

  18. I went through a period of 18 months or so where I lost 6 family members from old-age to suicide to cancer. I’ve never totally recovered and never will. You were lucky to have him in your life as I see you have learned a lot from him.

  19. The desire to be significant is one of the primary desires for a man. Perhaps not consciously all men want significance in their relationships, careers, etc. I get from this that George had that for the world at large and certainly for you!

    How awesome that he didn’t get confused along the way and think that flash and extravagance were the same as significance. They’re not, they’re just imposters. No one will ever have a tribute like this written for them because they had a shiny car or a big house. But a few quietly spoken words, cutting to the chase at times to guide someone his junior, combined with his tremendous example made him significant.

    I think I can see what you wanted others to get from your tribute. How he touched you. And I think we got it.

  20. What a touching tribute, it gave me goosebumps. It goes without saying that I’m sorry for your family’s loss…

    Rest assured that he did more with his short time on this Earth than the majority of folks will in a lifetime!

  21. Stacy Nikoley says:

    One of the stories that George like to tell me, because I live in Texas, was when he went to a Spanish school with the TX Governor Rick Perry. He told me what a nice guy he was and how much he enjoyed talking to him.

    One would think that George would have absolutely nothing in common with a republican governor from Texas, but that was George, he had an ability to strip away all the clutter and just see the essence of the person. That I think was his greatest gift.

    I guess that’s the lesson George taught me, look for the good in people and you usually find it.

    One of my last communications with George was when I was in Jakarta traveling on business, we had a txt message conversation, I’m glad I still have it.

    George it’s been almost a week, and I just can’t stop crying.

  22. Marile says:

    What an awesome tribute!

  23. I read this last night before going to sleep and it moved me deeply. I’m very sorry for your loss, but also glad that you had such a good person in your life from the time you were born.

    This piece really made me think about how I could simplify my own life, and echoed something I have heard a lot of (coincidentally) over the past few weeks: It’s important to have a decent dose of adventure and play in life. I don’t do enough of either.

    Lastly, reading this I couldn’t help but think of how your cousin reminds me in one way of many of the most loved people in my life: They all have a deeply held worldview that honors individual autonomy, free will, and the importance of allowing human beings to fulfill their highest potential. While many ignoramuses love to believe that people who hold onto this worldview are self-absorbed and cruel, the fact is that the ones I know are some of the most caring, loving, and truly honorable people on the planet. I don’t think this is a coincidence.

    Thanks for sharing this with us, Richard. I hope you find some comfort and peace during what must be a truly agonizing time of mourning.

    • “I hope you find some comfort and peace during what must be a truly agonizing time of mourning.”

      Jackie, well, it is amazing how much it helps knowing that I’m able to teach and inspire others through his life as example. I know it’s what he would have hoped for the most.

      And to smile more!

  24. That sucks Richard. It sounds like Jorge was a pretty remarkable guy, and friend. If everybody had such joie de vivre, there would be little time for war and strife.

  25. David Welsh says:

    Excellent Richard. Thanks so much. We haven’t met, but my wife Susan and I shared 2 decades of friendship, climbing and road trip adventures with George. Simply our best friend. And as Beth mentioned, recently he had been sharing how much we meant to him. We looked forward to being there for him for the years to come. We are devastated, but healing slowly.
    Yes he was all those things you write of. Intellgent, thoughtful, and playful with a coyote grin. Thanks again for your outstanding tribute.

  26. There is much to be learned from the lesson of your love for your cousin, and his love for life and family & everyone around him that he cared for.
    Those wise ones among us who would be as loved take heed,
    And thus his life, his love for you, and his passing are not in vain.

    My condolences to you, and to all of us for our loss of an inspirational teacher in the art of living.

  27. Caleigh says:

    The loss of someone we love is heartbreaking. Reading this tribute made me teary, since the sorrow of missing someone, of realizing they’re no longer physically with us, can be very hard to deal with. My grandpa was my teacher in life. He taught me how to ride a bike, to fish, to enjoy just sitting still, to laugh at silly things and to help a person in need whenever possible.

    I hope I’m not being lame or trite when I say that your tribute to your teacher is great. As long as there are tributes like this, the memory of them can never be wiped away.

  28. I love the pictures.

    Especially the one in the Hot Springs. Everything in that frame tells you something about him, and it’s all admirable.

    If it had a title, it would be called “Portrait of a Man Who Knows What Matters.”


  29. Very inspirational. It amazes me that the people who live the simplest, sincerest, and every day are the ones who impact us the most. I agree it seems that they go before they should, but I would rather live that life than one as a mindless and empty drone.

    I read this last night and it has periodically popped into my head throughout the day. It makes me want to improve myself for the right reasons and adopt to a life without pretense, but rather one where at the end of the day you traded that day for something of value. Great story Richard.

  30. josef says:

    The circumstances of Jorge’s loss mean a lot to me.

    When I was 16, I was at a no lifeguard beach body surfing. I always came out of my dives about five-10 meters from the sand.

    In one of my dives, I came out of the water about 500 meters from the sand. The people on the sand looked like ants. For a moment, I thought that it was a dream.

    Fortunately, at the time I was a competitive swimmer and was able to swim back to the coast in an angle to avoid being caught again by the rip tide.

    If this had happened now I would have been gone.

    Bottom line: I was very lucky!

    • I’ve been in a few precarious situations. As a kid, it was tubing the Trukee river from Verdi 14 miles up to where we lived just on the outskirts of Reno. Later, it was a swim across the very wide Wilamette river in Corvallis, during college. In one particular instance, Bob and I had to haul my roommate across the last half of it.

      For rips, it’s crucial to never swim against the current. It’s a channel in the ocean. Swim perp to the current, parallel to shore until out of it. Know how to tread water almost indefinitely with little energy expenditure. Know how to float on your back with almost zero energy expenditure.

      Never panic. Flip over on your back, kick just enough to keep your nose and mouth above water, breathe deeply and relax.

  31. Jay Jay says:

    I’ve read this 4 times now. I like it better each time.

    I’ve never met you Richard, or your cousin. But I think I know you both, through your words and pictures sent out over the internet. That’s awesome!

    And I am sure I will never forget either of you, and the examples you’ve both set, as long as I live. I am thankful for that.

    His fate is the fate we all face. We should not forget that. With our Paleo lifestyles, we all dream of making it to age 95 or so, but the truth is, it could all end tomorrow.

    I would at least take some comfort in the fact that he left our world doing something he obviously enjoyed: immersing himself in nature, and facing the challenges it throws at us.

    We’re all going to lose the challenge eventually. YMMV, but I’d rather lose it swimming off the coast of Florida than lying in a hospital bed with tubes pumping “food” into my veins and sucking waste out of my dick.

  32. Laura says:

    Your relationship with your cousin struck a chord with me. It reminds me in some ways of the relationship I was lucky enough to have with my grandmother towards the end of her life. Gammy and I just seemed to be on the same wavelength- albeit about seventy years apart. We both had the same crass sense of humor (in fact, I think she felt like I was the only one in our family who shared that with her), we both enjoyed a good glass of something-or-other every now and again, and, for a time, we both had boyfriends who lived far away.

    In fact, when my boyfriend (now husband) first moved away for school, she called me up and invited me to dinner. We both then proceeded to get totally plastered. That remains one of my fondest memories of her. After all, it’s not everyone can say they went out and got drunk with their grandmother!

    When she passed away, I was initially upset because it happened so quickly, I didn’t get to say goodbye. That still bothers me, but I know for a fact that she had done everything she wanted to do in life. That is inspirational for me. When I go, I want to be able to look back on a life well and fully lived. I want to be able to say, “Remember that time when…” and not “Man, I wish I had…” That’s only part of the legacy that she left me, and I’ll always be grateful for it.

    I feel fortunate to have had someone in my life who really knew how to live, someone who could show me what it’s all about. I’m glad you had someone like that too. And believe me, no matter how long you have them for, it’s never quite long enough. I feel for your loss.

  33. Alex Good says:

    I think you should close the comments, Richard. I’m not one to insult a dead man but the trolls (who will) shouldn’t get a chance.
    Oh and my condolences.

  34. Richard, you’re a writer.

  35. Lute Nikoley says:

    It was always a pleasure and always looked forward to George’s coming to family events, like birthday parties, camping at Hat Creek and Oktoberfest. I’ve known my nephew since the day he was born. I remember giving him his first ride in in a row boat, and he was scared to death, he was about 5, then he went and joined the Navy, but he chose flying.

  36. Lute Nikoley says:

    I wasn’t finished. I have many pictures of George which I will post soon, some I will have to copy off prints and slides. We will surely miss his great sense of humor and spirit. Even though we were on opposite sides politically, that had absolutely nothing to do with with loving each other as nephew and uncle (BTW,that’s what George always called me, uncle Lute) now see what you did? Make me cry again.
    George will be sorely missed by many whose lives he touched.

  37. Debra says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us, Richard. It’s a wonderful tribute to George.

    George was on my hiring committee at Cosumnes River College in 1997 so I have him to thank, in part, for helping me start a career I’ve had for the last 15.5 years. I’ll never forget him breaking protocol during my panel interview (for which I’m told he was later scolded by the ranking administrator present). As all who know George are aware, he didn’t care much for protocol (at least of this sort). Part way through the interview, after I had responded to one of the panel’s many scripted questions, George smiled and silently gave me a “thumbs up.” In the midst of me facing a row of mostly expressionless faces, his action boosted my confidence greatly. That was the first time I saw (and heard) his smile. I have many other wonderful memories of George that make me smile…and in retrospect, I now recognize some of them as “teachable moments” for me. George continues to be an educator and an inspiration to me. I miss him greatly.

  38. I had another thought about the hot springs photograph:

    I’d be willing to bet that moments like that — good friends relaxing amid stunning natural beauty, while a beloved animal waits nearby – have been happening at that spring for ten thousand years.

    This is probably the greatest post you’ve ever written, Richard, but it may also be the most profoundly on-topic.

  39. Karen says:

    They say the Stars can’t see their Rays
    Nor can they count their numbered Days…
    — Joe Strummer (1952-2002)

  40. Monica Daniel says:

    George and I connected a lot with music and a lot of our conversations were about The Beatles. I’ve never met a person as caring as George. His passing is truly sad but his existence has greatly impacted my life. A few days ago he called me and commented on the coolness of my Beatles ringback tone “Here Comes the Sun.” I regret not answering the phone because that was the last call I would ever receive from George.

    My friendship with George was unconditional and he always made me feel better even on my bad days. Most recently he comforted me on the phone about my challenges with moving back to California. A few days ago George called and said “Hey I’ll be back from Europe in June, I hope you’ll be here.” I was happy to hear from him and I looked forward to hanging out this summer.

    George was definitely the kindest person I’ve ever known. I worked a few blocks from his house and he even picked me up from work and made me lunch during my lunch break. He would text me in the early morning hours telling me he was at Coffee Garden. I’ve been crying about George’s passing since I found out yesterday on my birthday.

    I finally had one moment of happiness when I remember going to George’s place one weekend with my dog LadyBird. My dog Lady is notorious for running away… I remember George put Lady in his backyard while we were hanging out. Ten minutes later he was running down the block and finally found her in a neighbor’s yard.

    I have a lot of good things to say about my friendship with George but I’m saving my energy for when I see him again. I just want to give him a hug. Thank you George for being the best friend ever. I miss you.


    Here is a Beatles video I made for you George:

  41. Tom G says:

    Richard, thanks for such a heartfelt and wonderful remembrance of George/Jorge. (And to everyone else here, too!)

    I first met George maybe 14 or 15 years ago, right after I moved to Davis. He happened to show up at the local climbing gym when I was hanging around on a slow afternoon (I’m pretty sure he was in town for the Whole Earth Festival – also recall running into him & his mom there a few years later on Mother’s Day), we started talking, and before I knew it he got me into my first-time lead-climbing. Even though we’re about the same age I was new to the sport and never lead-climbed so was a little hesitant, but you know George.

    “C’mon, it’s EASY! I’ll show you!” (I can still hear that eager enthusiastic encouraging tone in his voice…)

    Despite that introduction I guess most of the time I spent with George was more music-related than climbing (including one very memorable Phish concert), or just hanging out, but I FINALLY got to rope up and climb outdoors with him last summer at Lovers Leap. It was a blast.

  42. Hey there,

    Just caught your writeup yesterday. I’ll tell you what your story does for me. Your cuz sounds awesome, and sounds very much like the kind of guy I would like to be when I grow up.

    Now I am an academic, and we’re paid not so much with real money as with “prestige.” The problem is, academia is even stingier with prestige than money. In a couple weeks I am off to a rather low prestige job in another part of the country, and am a little frustrated with that. At the same time I am recognizing exactly how a smaller pond will allow me to be a freer fish. The fact is, I knew this all along and I tell others as much – Don’t get sucked in!

    Then I read your writeup of your cousin, and at some point you say he’s teaching physics at a community college, and I think to myself – Sounds like a guy doing work he likes, making enough to live off of, and he has a life to emulate.

    Reading about it in your story helped me to reorient and focus my advice on myself. Prestige and money are someone else’s game’s, someone else’s rulebook, someone else’s scoreboard.

    Thank you for helping me to remember to define my own goals and live by my own metrics. It came when I needed to hear it. That’s what your story does for me.

    Many condolences, and three cheers for a life well lived.

  43. Martine says:

    Thank you, Richard. Well done. Your admiration and love of George shine through your writing.

  44. clarevh says:

    Richard, I am sorry this is a little late, but I have been thinking about it all week and since you can’t read my mind, am finally compelled to put my condolences into words.

    Last Friday morning we left for a long weekend at our cabin in the Alabama Hills. The weather was beautiful so Saturday afternoon we drove up to Whitney Portal then took the long way back via Hogback Road and Movie Road. I am always amazed and awed by the vastness and austere beauty of the Eastern Sierra, and I do my best to absorb it every time I am there. So I didn’t read your tribute to Jorge until Monday morning, and there among the heartfelt words and incredible pictures was a photo of your cousin scaling a rock in the Alabama Hills with Mount Whitney in the background! I was already feeling an affinity for this man whom I could never meet, and then I saw the Hot Springs picture with his dog…Tears!

    Another thing I love is that he taught at a community college. I went to a community college back in the day when they were still called “Junior” colleges. I went on to UCLA, but I had the best teachers and the most fun learning at the community college level. I am sure your cousin inspired and motivated thousands of kids when he taught physics.

    Of course, this got me thinking about my own mortality. I was set on the road to heathenism at a very early age when the nuns told me that I might not see everyone I love in the afterlife. Uh-oh! What if I went to heaven and someone I love went to hell (or vice versa)? They assured me that I will be so ecstatic in the presence of God, Jesus, and the Angels & Saints that I won’t even miss my earthly loved ones. That was the deal-breaker for me: if the people and animals I love in this life won’t be with me in the next than dead is just dead.

    I am sure that your cousin’s wishes and needs in death were as simple and unassuming as his wishes and needs in life. As for me, when I die play Little Wing by Jimi Hendrix at my funeral and scatter my ashes near the lupines by Hogback Creek.

  45. Tim Bedore says:

    I discovered this blog today, been eating through it for a few hours and now have come across the story of Jorge. Wow. I am a 49 year old man, and hearing about Jorge’s life inspires me to get out and notch up the volume on my life as my 50’s approach. Thank you for doing such a great job conveying what your cousin was all about. I am sure that some of it will rub off on me just by hearing the tales.

  46. Terryvsb says:

    I just googled George Knott and found his obit. My husband, Rich, went to Berkeley with George and climbed with him often, until we moved to Maine. I am so saddened to hear of his death, and sorry that Rich did not make it to the celebration held for him earlier this month. Keep on with your adventures, and thank you for sharing your most heartfelt remembrances of George. We will miss him.

  47. Brigitte Nikoley Knott Barnes says:

    Thank you dear Richard for the most beautiful and moving Tribute to my son who truly loved his Mom no matter what her shortcomings where. I miss him so.
    Love you Richard,
    Auntie Brigitte


  1. […] Posts RSS ← Tribute: My Cousin and Surrogate Big Brother, George “Jorge” Knott (1956-2012) […]

  2. […] from all over the world in attendance (the number of friends he collected over time a space…). My own entry. Dozens of people spoke, relating their stories of him…from sea to shining sea, and Cal […]

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