George F. Cleary Jr., Gloucester City Letter Carrier, Army Intelligence/Security Command Veteran, GCHS Alumnus Class '59
UPDATED 2PM (December 10, 2014)
UPDATED 8:30PM (December 10, 2014)
By William E. Cleary Sr/CNBNews
George F. Cleary Jr., a man with a strong Christian faith, a man who loved his family and
helped his neighbors, and a man who kept his sense of humor even when facing death, died today (December 9, 2014) at the age of 72. Born and raised in Gloucester City, Mr. Cleary has most recently resided in Thorofare with his wife of 43 years Shirley Cleary (nee Hampton). George died from a combination of emphysema and lung cancer.
He worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 28-years starting his career in 1964 as a letter carrier at the Haddonfield Post Office. He briefly left the post office in 1970 and took a truck driver’s job with Counties Construction Company in Philadelphia. He remained there until 1982, at which time he returned to the Postal Service working first in Haddonfield, and later at the Bellmawr and Gloucester City Post Offices.
Mr. Cleary retired from the Postal Service in 2002. He was a member of the letter Carriers Union, Branch 908, Woodbury, and the Teamsters, Local 676, Collingswood. He belonged to the Ray Ford Old Timers and the Gloucester City Breakfast Club.
A 1959 alumnus of Gloucester Catholic High School, and St. Mary’s Grammar School, Gloucester City, George served in the United States Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) from January 1960 until June 1963. He was 17-years-old when he volunteered for the draft. After boot camp at Fort Knox, Kentucky, he was shipped off to Frankfort, Germany and later was stationed in Baumholder, Germany. While in Germany the “Cold War” was at its peek. In 1961 the Berlin Wall, which separated the East from the West, was being erected by the Communist. The Wall served to prevent the massive emigration and defection that marked Germany and the Communist Eastern Bloc during the post-World War II period. He was skilled in morse code, and his job was to monitor radio traffic and interpret the conversations coming out of Communist East Germany.
His sister Dolores Raube recalls the times she and her brother would go to the local movie theater in Gloucester City:
“When my brother George was 8 and I was 12-years-old, many Saturdays we walked to the King movie down by the Delaware River here in Gloucester to attend a matinee. As we crossed Broadway he would place his plump, little hand in mine, as we hurried across Broadway. He loved our outing to the movies as it always included his own bag of popcorn. I still remember the way his young hand felt in mine warm and soft. As I sat holding my brother's hand recently, as he struggled to talk, I wondered if this was to be the very last time I would feel its warmth next to mine. He wasn't doing so good.
“Thinking of memories of my dear brother I recalled the Sundays we would walk to church with our Dad. Georgie was always a block ahead. He'd wait for Dad and I at the corner and after we'd cross the street he'd take off again running as fast as he could. We used to wonder was George in such a hurry to get to church or did he just loving running and being the first to reach the corner.
“My kind, gentle, dear, brother is a good man who loved his family and good friends. He's at peace now. And he believes we will meet again in a better place.
“God bless him. He will surely be missed by those who love him.”
His brother Bill said, “George was always hustling for a buck. Besides his regular job he also worked for a time as a bartender at the Crown Point Inn, West Deptford and Ferry’s Slip Inn, Brooklawn. And there was a time he even had a produce stand. When he retired from the post office it was because he had prostate cancer and emphysema. He had the prostate cancer removed but it was the emphysema that gave him the most trouble. He tried exercising at the gym at Riverwinds and at Retro Fitness in Bellmawr. And was doing quite well for a few years. But in 2011 he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Because of his emphysema he tried alternative medicine instead of surgery to treat it taking 35 pills a day at one point. That seemed to work. Then in 2012 he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He saw doctors at Fox Chase but once again the emphysema got in the way. His lungs were in such a bad condition the doctors were afraid to operate.
“He had a hard time breathing and was in and out of the hospital throughout 2013. The day before Thanksgiving the doctors at Underwood Hospital did a PET scan. After reviewing the results they told George his insides were so bad that he might not make it to Christmas. He never gave up. He fought to the end. If anything he was at peace. A God fearing man he believed in the here after and joked about seeing his family and friends that have gone before him at ‘Saint Gabriel’s Cafe’.
“This past Sunday Connie and I visited with George. He is confined to his bed and calls me close to him. I lean down and he says in a low whisper, ‘Remind me to tell you where I buried my gold coin collection.’ I looked at him, and he started to laugh. Even though he had been through hell, he kept his sense of humor up until the very end.
“Throughout this entire ordeal his loving wife of 43 years, Shirley, and his dear children were by his side. He was truly loved by his family. I am proud to call him my big brother. He will always remain in my heart as my best friend. I loved him so.”
Bill and his wife Connie (nee Sarlo) are the former owners of the Gloucester City News, and presently own the daily news blog CNBNews (ClearysNoteBook).
In addition to his wife Shirley, son Kevin (Chelsea), sister Dolores (Joe), and brother Bill, (Connie) he is survived by his daughter Barbara Massi, daughter Debra Baca (Jim), daughter Georgeanna Singley (Steve), daughter Renee (John). He was predeceased in death by his son George Cleary III and parents George F. Sr. and Mazie Cleary.
Also survived by 14 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of the McCann-Healey Funeral Home, 851 Monmouth Street, Gloucester City, 856-456-1142.
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In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Msgr. Lucitt's Needy Children Christmas Fund: PO Box 87, Gloucester City NJ 08030, or mass cards would be appreciated. In the memo write George F. Cleary
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