Special to the Post Independent
Battlement Mesa will not be the same. The dwindling remnants of World War II veterans will not be the same. Arguably the world’s largest engineering firm will not be the same. Those who relish scholarship will miss the exacting standards of George Connell, who passed away at 30 Cactus Court in Battlement Mesa on March 31, 2004, under the loving eye and care of his sister Eve.
George was a legitimate American hero who would have scoffed at the description. But the facts are stubborn and cannot be dismissed.
If you have not seen the movie by L. Wolper called “The Bridge at Remagen,” you must do so. Our neighbor George was there in a role as a combat engineer in the final push to end Hitler’s Third Reich in 1945. The fortuitous crossing of the Rhine on the Ludendorff Bridge after it had been unsuccessfully blown by the defenders is an epic of luck and engineering improvisation. It sealed the fate of Hitler and assured the Russians in their march on Berlin.
Before that George had fought on Christmas 1944 in the Battle of the Bulge, which was Hitler’s final fling to thwart the successful invasion in Normandy.
Born and reared in Indiana, George volunteered for the Army in 1943, and his natural mechanical knack led to his assignment in the Engineers. No less an authority than Gen. George Patton credited the combat engineers with winning the war. They built the roads, cleared the obstacles, fought hand to hand and suffered front-line casualties.
After the war, George attended Purdue University under the GI Bill and received a degree in civil engineering. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa.
One of his classmates was Pete Bechtel, son of the founder of Bechtel Engineering, now one of the most competent engineering firms in the world. George liked to relate that Pete was always the first in mathematical calculations because his answers were faster than the slide rule using the “Rule of Nines.”
George first worked for Creole Petroleum in Venezuela, sinking the first pipeline in the Maracaibo basin. He then joined his old buddy Pete Bechtel for assignments in the United States, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, London, Zambia, Mexico, Australia, Libya, and again to Venezuela over a 25-year period, all from the San Francisco headquarters of Bechtel. In the process, George accumulated the largest personal library of World War II memorabilia and geography this writer has ever seen in a single home. It is hoped this priceless asset will not be lost.
George was a Battlement Mesa pioneer on retirement and his home stood almost alone in Monument Creek in 1981. He quickly became a booster for Battlement Mesa.
He was one of the founders of the original Homeowners Association. He served with distinction as a director with the two special districts providing sewer and water services.
As his health deteriorated, he used his time and knowledge to personally encourage a new generation of concerned citizens. He was a staunch advocate of responsible government and homeowner rights.
A piece of past history, regretfully largely forgotten by the current generation, is gone with George Connell. He was an unforgettable, brave and kind friend.
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