George Pederson, 1992. Photo by Gary Choppé. Click to enlarge.
George Ludvig Pederson was born Dec. 4, 1924, on the island of Madagascar. He was the youngest of nine children — 3 boys and 6 girls. His parents were Petra (pronounced Peetra) and Christian. He obtained his middle name from his uncle Ludvig Pederson. He has one sister still with us, Solveig Bailey, age 96. She continues to live a very productive life in Northfield, Minn. George's father and grandfather were both Lutheran missionaries.
He and the other children of the missionary parents grew up in beautiful Madagascar. Nine months out of the year they were taught English, French, Malagasy and their other lessons by the deaconesses of the church. George enjoyed only three months a year with his parents, on summer vacations. One of his closest friends during childhood was Gilbert ("Jill Bear"), the cook for his missionary family.
When George was 13, his family returned to the United States for a missionary furlough in Minnesota. After a year and a half, his parents returned to Madagascar while he, along with other missionary children, started high school at Augustana Academy in Canton, S.D. There, again away from his parents, his education continued under the close supervision of church personnel.
After graduating from high school, George went to college for a semester. The country was involved in World War II. He was all set to be drafted. He went down to the induction center, expecting to become a soldier, when he was stopped by a naval induction officer who said, "Son, you look like you like the water." He said "yes." George entered the Navy and loved his new home. He acquired friends easily and actually had fun during the war. He served on four different ships and visited seven South Pacific ports from April 1943 to February 1946. His rank was Radioman 3rd Class at war's end.
After his discharge from the service, he reportedly bummed around for a while before starting a job as milkman with Carnation. George met Verlene Partlow, who in 1950 became his wife. The marriage lasted 64 years, until her death on June 6, 2014 — one year ago today. They had one daughter, Teresa Lynn, who was born in August 1951. He absolutely cherished his daughter from the very start.
In February of 1954, George joined the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. He started his career at the Wayside Honor Ranch in Castaic, now known as the Pitchess Detention Center. He later worked in the North Hollywood Division as a deputy and sergeant until 1964. During this time, he worked under cover, in intelligence and of course, in a patrol car.
George always enjoyed the different roles he played. He saw Hollywood celebrities routinely and even delivered a baby when the hospital was just too far away. He rose to the rank of lieutenant and transferred back to the Newhall Station (Substation No. 6) in the Santa Clarita Valley.
George was asked to start a program for the young males of the SCV. Along with two other community leaders, they started what is now known as the Boys and Girls Club of the Santa Clarita Valley.
In 1980, George was promoted to the rank of captain and commanded the Pitchess Detention Center. He had made a full circle.
As a captain, George's administrative and leadership abilities were prominent for a few years. However, in 1984, at the age of 60, he had to retire in accordance with the sheriff department's mandatory retirement rule. George would have described his 30 years in law enforcement as an adventure, not just a job.
Along the way, George managed to obtain a master's and doctoral degree in Administration of Justice. He rarely talked about these accomplishments.
After three decades in the department, most officers fade into retirement — but not George. He was just getting started. He taught at College of the Canyons, was a consultant for the Department of Justice, and also was one of the founding fathers of the city of Santa Clarita in 1987.
In 1991 his political career began. George ran for a seat on the Santa Clarita City Council and served from 1992 through 1996. He was mayor during the 1994 earthquake. He professionally navigated the city during a really difficult time. He said he loved it. It was all fun for him.
Every year, George was involved in the Boys and Girls Club Benefit Auction and many other local charity events. He would be an emcee, he would plan the event, and he would approach community leaders for funding. George was the go-to person when leadership was needed.
He even helped when there was a zoning issue during the construction of this church sanctuary (Christ Lutheran Church, Valencia). He loved being a part of the city of Santa Clarita.
In 1996, at age 71, George ran in the Republican primary for state Assembly. As an older candidate, he loved to use the Reagan quote: "I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." Well, unlike Reagan, he lost his election to George Runner, but he was proud that the SCV majority voted for him. He backed Runner the very next year, wanting a Republican to hold the office. He did not hold a grudge.
This was the end of his political career, but he stayed very much involved, backing the SCV Senior Center and serving on the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission. He also was foreman of the Los Angeles County Grand Jury and worked for the National Associates of Securities Dealers as an arbitrator. He obtained his real estate license, was a travel agent, had a radio and TV show for a while ("By George" on SCVTV), and in 1997 he was honored as the Santa Clarita Valley Man of the Year. He was having a ball.
George always made his decisions quickly, abruptly and with confidence. Often he teased, sometimes a little too much, but he never looked back and said, "Gee, I should have done this or that." He simply went on to the next undertaking. He rarely expressed any regrets.
George also had a great sense of humor. He had nicknames for many people. He had a secretary who could not take criticism. She was called "Quiver Lips." His nephew was called "Model T," short for Mikee. A detective at work was called "No. 99" after the "Get Smart" TV character. There was his good friend, Clyde Smyth, whom he nicknamed "Landslide Clyde" after a 16-vote majority win for a City Council seat. He referred to his wife as "Silver Tip" because of her white hair. There were many more. Some were a little too salty to mention here.
His two grandkids had a nickname for him. It was "Tat." His granddaughter Kristin, as a toddler, could not say "Grandpa;" it came out as "Ta-Ta" and was later shortened to Tat. Grandchildren Kristin and Matthew still use the name "Tat" to this day when they refer to their grandfather.
Hobbies for George included some traveling and a little horseback riding, but his favorite acquired pastime later in life, for 10-plus years, was golf. In his relatively short links career, he obtained two holes in one. He would often play in a foursome with younger players and would tease, saying he was just a duffer. They would tee up first and often misplay a drive. He would tee up, hit the ball straight down the fairway, look over his shoulder and say, "You know I am 80 years old." They would rave at his ability. "Gee, you don't look or act your age." He would grin on the in and outside.
The times that stand out most in my mind when thinking of George were when he would come over to our house for breakfast visits after church on Sunday mornings. George would tease about eating our groceries for the week. Then he would get serious and tell of his plans for the week, try out the jokes for an event he was going to emcee, and talk about childhood memories in Madagascar and even about the ports he visited during World War II. These were special times I will not forget.
I have talked about George's career, community service, hobbies and personal times as separate parts of his life. However, with George, all of these activities were actually combined together. He loved what he was doing at the time, no matter how it might be categorized. George was a positive person with no regrets. He always looked to the future. He even kept this attitude in his last couple of years when Parkinson's disease took over his mind and body. [...]
Webster's New World Dictionary defines "eulogy" as praise or a blessing given in honor of someone who has recently passed away. In this instance, it was George Pederson who was the blessing ... for his many friends, this community, and especially his family.