Friends, family and acquaintances are grieving the sudden death on August 19 of George Edwards, 51. He apparently took his own life. The friendly mechanic with a contagious smile and physical challenges enjoyed lending a hand. “George’s life was helping people fix their vehicles, for cheap or for free. His happiest moments where when he could help people in need. Because he had gone through so many hard times he wanted to do good for others, so they wouldn’t have to,” friend Michael George said.
George Ruben Edwards Jr. was born at home in Elkhorn, Wisconsin on June 18, 1963. His mother Bridgett Edwards was by herself with two babies when labor began too early. “He was 2lbs. 13oz. The doctors didn’t expect him to live,” his mother said. He had heart problems, cerebral palsy and was so dyslexic he couldn’t read or write. The Edwards family lived off the land in Wisconsin. After her marriage to George Edwards Sr. ended, Bridgett and mechanic Robert “Grizz” Berg’s combined family of thirteen children moved to Glacier Point in 1978.
Berg taught his stepson how to repair cars. When Edwards was seventeen he had hip surgery in Seattle and was immobilized in a full body cast. His mother said they pulled him around Glacier Point on a sled until he could scoot using a primitive cart.
“George overcame it all. He just kept plugging on,” Bridgett Berg said. “We never told him he was crippled. We didn’t use that word. We taught him to take care of himself. George had the best memory of all. Once you showed him how to do something he didn’t forget. When you get cheated in one way, you gain in something else, that’s the way God takes care of us,” his mother said.
Edwards lived the pioneer life at Glacier Point until 1986 when he moved with the family to a house they built on Small Tracts Road. When the Edwards-Berg clan left town, George stayed. Bridgett Berg said George loved Haines. “He liked that he could drive, which he didn’t think he could do anywhere else, and that he knew everybody and they liked him. Haines was his home,” she said.
Physical therapist Dr. Marnie Hartman called Edwards inspiring. “George always told people he hoped they’d be better soon, and the reflection of his own physical struggles inspired them to be as strong and as joyful as he was,” she said. Edwards’ mechanical abilities were not limited to automobiles. “He was like MacGyver. I can’t tell you how many walkers or creative assistive devices George made,” she said.
Neighbor Teri Winge said Edwards adored animals and children, and that he spoke his own language. “He was Uncle Crab, partially because of his hand, and because he said he was crabby when he was happy. He told the kids the scars from surgeries were shark bites. One thing about George is that you couldn’t tell him no. If he said he was going to do something he did it,” she said. Edwards spent his days tinkering with the vehicles in his yard, which he called his “treasures” or working on rigs for friends, and would take apart engines at his kitchen table.
“As a paycheck to paycheck single mom, he got my old Blazer started more than once out of the kindness of his heart. Sweet, sweet George,” Suzi Linden said. Other friends noted he kept their trucks running for no payments except homemade cookies, a burger at the Bamboo Room or a doughnut at the bakery.
Edwards liked to tell tales that grew taller, from his Glacier Point years to his many mishaps, often involving boats, including the 1990 sinking of the gillnetter Lela Mae. Bill and Joyce Thomas were running for a sheltered harbor in their fishing boat and found George and three others drowning in seven-foot seas. (They all survived.) “I grabbed George first, he had a life jacket on, but the zipper was torn. He always told me that was the only time his arm was straight, when I pulled him into the boat,” Thomas said. From then on every time Edwards saw the former state legislator he’d say, “There’s my angel.” Thomas said he will miss Edwards. “He had so much pain, and yet he was always jokey and always had a good time doing things.”
Michael George said, “We are lucky we got to live with George at all. He had a tough life, but his happiness came from encouraging other people.”
Edwards is survived by his Mother Bridgett Berg and siblings Georgie Ann Edwards, Annie Edwards, David Edwards, Johnny Edwards, Tina Edwards, Ricky Edwards and Ruby Berg, and step-siblings Lila Berg, Cindy Berg, Eric Berg, Christopher Berg and Julie Berg. There will be a family memorial service in Wisconsin. Cards to Bridgett Berg may be mailed to 19124 Church St., Aniwa WI 54408