George Heinrich of Derby passed away Dec. 12, 2022 surrounded by his loving family.  

George, the youngest of three boys, was born to Valentine and Norma Heinrich on June 27, 1932 in Kalamazoo, Mich. George was a top high school athlete who participated in multiple sports but cherished his basketball years where he played the point guard position.  He often told his basketball story to friends and family about how his underdog team who had lost six games would go on to win the state championship. He defined this time as magical and that his team fit the speech made by Winston Churchill who said, “Never, never, never, give up.” He embraced that attitude through his life and passed the philosophy of perseverance and determination to his family.

In addition to being a top athlete, George was an academic scholar.  He attended the Naval Academy and was commissioned into the Air Force as a 2nd Lieutenant.  He spent 26 years in the military where he earned his Master and PhD degrees, flew over 4,000 hours in military aircraft which included a combat tour in Vietnam and nuclear missions over the North Pole, served in Research & Development positions, and multiple Director positions.  George and his wife Mary moved 16 times through their military life and always created a welcoming, loving and hospitable home.   George retired from the military as a full bird Colonel.

George began his second career at Boeing Commercial where he served as the director of the Operations Analysis Group.  He also held consulting and academic positions with WSU, Boeing Military, Raytheon, and Southwestern College.   George had a commitment to education and made it very clear to his family that education was a key to life success.

George would explain to his friends and family that he never retired. His last job was keeping active through his studies and his investments in the stock market.  He also committed himself to his health and exercise while fighting multiple health issues.  He worked out four to five times a week at the Derby Recreation Center (DRC) and incorporated working out bi-weekly with his trainers.  Despite his pain, George always greeted everyone with a smile, would gladly share a story, boast about his children and grandchildren, or give them a tip about the stock market.  He was awarded the Inspirational Wellness Award in 2021 from the DRC.

George was a man of all seasons who had multiple careers as a scholar, athlete, pilot, decorated war hero, engineer, researcher, stock market investor, teacher, military and civilian director positions.  His favorite role was that of being a father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and husband. George, affectionately called Papa, always expressed pride in his children, offered frequent compliments, and had a belief that his family could accomplish anything they set their mind on to do.

George was preceded in death by his beloved wife of 55 years, Mary.  George is survived by his daughters, Margo McDonald, Valerie Bates, and Georgia Gregory; grandchildren Megan Shannon, Mary Brown, Jacob Gregory, Molly Gregory; great grandchildren, Kaetlyn Dishon, Allie Clasen, Kimber Brown, Abigail Brown, George Gregory.

Memorial service will be held Friday, Feb. 24, 2023 at the Smith Family Mortuary Chapel, Derby at 10 a.m.  Graveside service will be held at the pavilion at the Kansas Veterans Cemetery, 1208 N. College St., Winfield, Kan. at 1 pm.  In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Kansas Honor Flight, PO Box 2371, Hutchinson, KS 67504.

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