by Joanne Ritter
A part of GDB history died today. George Shearing, internationally famous jazz pianist passed away of congestive heart failure at the age of 91. In addition to his incomparable musical talents, George was a delightful man with a keen sense of humor.
George had one Guide Dog, a beautiful Golden Retriever named Lee, whom he loved dearly. George and Lee traveled together for over ten years, until Lee’s death in 1975. He described Lee as, “a marvelous companion with a great temperament,” and wrote fondly about his experiences training with Lee in his book Lullaby of Birdland: “I’ll never forget the day I could feel the wind in my face as Lee and I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge together. What an exhilarating experience!”
George was a strong supporter of Guide Dogs for the Blind and traveled the country with Norah Hamilton Straus, helping to raise awareness and support through media interviews on radio and television. Norah related, “Between the three of us, it was hard to say who was the biggest scene stealer. I remember one radio show to which George had been invited primarily to play the piano. I was tagging along to put in a few words on behalf of Guide Dogs for the Blind. Well, every time George paused in his playing, I started talking about the school. I had so much to say and so little air time to say it! I guess it would be fair to say I got carried away. The announcer was very nice and let me do it. So did George Shearing. The only thing he was more devoted to than Lee, however, was his music. As we were leaving the radio station after the show, I turned to him nervously and asked how he thought it went. He gave me a good natured smile and said, ‘Next time, Norah, I’d like a little less Hamilton and a little more Shearing.’”
George and his wife, Ellie have supported Guide Dogs for the Blind for many years. He will be missed.
Read this piece in the Wall Street Journal's Remembrance section about George Shearing.