It is with deepest sadness I report the passing of a great friend of the Boulder Jewish community. George Lichter, 92 years young, left us last Friday after a brief battle with leukemia.
There aren’t many people I would call a true hero, but George was the real deal. A genuine yet humble hero, he was only beginning to get the recognition he deserved but never craved.
George’s amazing heroic exploits – known to his friends and family but until now not widely known – were recently documented in a biography by Vic Shayne, “Up and Down with No Regrets.” More public acknowledgement is on its way in the form of a new documentary directed by Roberta Grossman (“Hava Nagila”) and produced by Nancy (sister of Steven) Spielberg.
I was privileged to call him a friend, and honored to count him among my loyal Menorah participants. He was a generous donor, an avid supporter of cultural arts and a source of inspiration for all. He was warm and honest and caring, the kind of tough man who would not back down from a fight but would give you the coat off his back. He loved family, friends, food, golf, the arts, dancing, Boulder, the company of women and his close male friends such as fellow fighter pilot Hugh McGinty, whom he brought to Menorah events and kiddingly nicknamed McGinsky. George usually brought Hugh as his guest to the Artist Series, where George had seats right behind ours.
We had lunch with George at the end of June, just before we left for Israel and he left for New York, where he kept an apartment. My husband Stan asked George endless questions about his years as a World War II fighter pilot and later as a fighter pilot and trainer for Israel during its War of Independence.
George’s love of Israel was profound, and he was treated in that country as the hero he was. Israel never forgot the debt it owed George, and George formed lasting friendships with many illustrious Israelis. For example, at lunch he talked about his ongoing friendship with Danny Shapira, whom he had mentored as a rookie – and whose life he dramatically saved – who went on to become Israel’s ace pilot.
As George savored his lunch, he shared his stories with characteristic generosity and enthusiasm, all of us unaware it would be our last meeting. George had an impressive memory, and clearly felt he had lived life to the fullest – as he himself said, with no regrets.
I was eager to discuss the presentation he had agreed to do for Menorah in November close to Veteran’s Day. The program, set for Thursday, Nov. 14 at noon at the JCC, will go on without George. His biography will be available for purchase. We will do everything in our power to tell his story and honor his memory.
And I also look forward to showing the upcoming film, “Above and Beyond: The Birth of the Israeli Air Force,” about a group of WW II pilots who volunteered to fight for Israel’s independence as members of “Machal” (volunteers from abroad.) This elite group of veterans turned the tide of the war, preventing Israel’s annihilation at the moment of its birth, and also laid the groundwork for the Israeli Air Force. George was among this handful of heroes still alive who is heavily featured in the film.
If the film is completed by March, it will be the opening night film in the Boulder Jewish Film Festival. George had agreed to be honored at the event. Now the screening will be dedicated to his memory.
Here’s a link to an excerpt from the film: http://vimeo.com/54400569
George’s passing leaves a void in the community and in the lives of his beloved family. And the world has lost a rare hero.