|Birth: ||Jun. 21, 1935, USA|
|Death: ||Aug. 31, 2009|
George Cleaveland, age 74 long-term and distinguished Michigan educator,of Beaumont, Texas, died August 31, 2009 at his summer home at Lake Rathburn in Moravia, Iowa. He is now resting comfortably in the arms of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, for all etemity George an his wife, Janet Kelly Cleaveland, resided in Beaumont, Texas. George was well-know in Michigan, Connecticut, New Jersey, and South America as a visionary educational leader, a man of courage and integrity, who championed the cause of people who lacked power in our society. He was an athlete, scholar, educational change agent, and truly had a servant's heart. George was raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan's second largest city. His early leadership achievements included being Senior Class President, Valedictory Speaker, and R.O.T.C. Cadet Commander at South High School. George is believed to be the most highly decorated Eagle Scout ever in the United States. He was offered an athletic scholarship to Michigan State University and an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He chose M.S.U. where he played middle linebacker in football, boxed, and played baseball. He also had the good fortune to play in two Rose Bowls. After his Bachelor's degree, he entered the U.S.Army in the Second Armored Division, (a group nicknamed Hell on Wheels), during the Korean War era, achieving the rank of Captian. George began teaching and coaching in Grand Rapids in the 1960's. During the summers, he and his beloved wife of forty-two years, Joan Bagby Cleaveland, ran a non-profit camp on the shores of Lake Michigan for underprivileged and emotionally distrubed children. George continued his involvement with athletics by scouting college football prospects for the New York Jets, earning a Super Bowl ring in the Joe Namath era. George was promoted to high school principal in the largest and most volatile school in Grand Rapids, during a period of great turmoil in our country. He was charged with implementing the Supreme Court's desegregation/school busing order at Union High School, the site of previous student riots over integration issues. During what was an eventually successful integration of white and black students, George and his family endured the firebombing of his home, the burning of crosses on his front lawn, the bombing of his car, and constant death threats made to him or to his family. Nothing intimidated or deterred him. George's next educational venture took him to Maracaibo, Venzuela as the Superintendent of American Schools for all of South America, again during a period of turmoil, as American oil assets(and George's cabin cruiser) were nationalized by the Venzuelan government. He returned to the U.S. as high school principal in Franklin Township, New Jersey, another troubled school. He was able to reduce social tensions and drug use, opening up educational opportunities for all students. George was recruited to Berling High School in Connecticut, where he led a statewide committee that created a high school football playoff system, which is still in use today. George energized and motivated teachers and students, just as he had done at every other location. When George was leaving Berlin, his pastor, Dennis Winkleback, noted that he found George to be an unusual man.. who didn't seem to play for gain..an uncommonly good man. George's next twenty-three years, from 1977 on, were spent in Rochester, Michigan, again as a principal, teacher, and coach. He created a high school psychology class there, the first of its kind, and taught at regional campuses for both Michigan State and Wayne State, where he had received his Master's degree. His final coaching assignment before retiring in 1999 was winning the state championship in high school baseball in 1998. After his beloved wife Joan's death in 1999, he married Janet Kelly Cleaveland and moved to Beaumont, Texas. George would argue that his crowning achievement in life, his treasure here on earth, is his children.
He is survived by sons Scot, George, and Lowran, and daughters Laurel and Kitt. He has ten grandchildren to carry on the fine family tradition he and others before him established. These include Sarah, Katherine, twins Abigail and Elizabeth, twins Grand and Henry, Lee, Wyatt, Jack and Will. His sister, Joyce Cleaveland Whitehead survives him, as do numerous favorite nieces and nephews.
Memorial services will be held at First Baptist Church in Groves, Texas on Friday, September 11, 2009 at 11 am Additional memorial services are planned in Rochester, Michigan, at a later date. True to his educational beliefs and purposeful mission, In honor of George's wishes, his body has been donated to the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Missouri for medical research. Lange Funeral Home is taking care of the Cleaveland family. Condolences may be left online at www.thomaslangefuneralhome.com
Body donated to medical science
Created by: Donald Bitner
Record added: Dec 29, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 46105144