George ‘Gidge’ Horn was the kind of man who made a town a community.
Realistically, communities need hundreds of people like Horn, and the more they have, the deeper and richer they become. But you can never have enough Gidges.
Horn passed away on Monday, Aug. 17, from complications from a fall three months earlier. He was 86.
Horn was a community activist, an altruistic hard worker and an honest, family-oriented man. He left everything he touched, everything he became involved in, better than he found it, including his beloved hometown of Lebanon.
“He went to the Navy and he went to college, but he always came home on weekends,” said Jeanette Horn, George Horn’s wife for 58 years. “He didn’t want to move anywhere else. This is the town he loved. He didn’t want to be away from here. He was totally loyal to Lebanon.”
“To him, Lebanon was like his family,” said Steve Horn, George’s son. “Everybody in town was like his family. He wanted to know everyone and talk to everyone.”
Horn was very active at St. Cecilia’s/St. Gertrude’s Catholic church in Lebanon, as well as in the Lebanon school district, and he was an avid Philadelphia and local sports fan. He attended every Lebanon School Board meeting as an observer for more than 40 years.
An empathetic and educated human being, Horn was a “man about town” in all the right ways.
“People thought he worked at the school, but he didn’t,” said Jeanette Horn. “People thought he was on the school board, but he wasn’t. He’d rather go and be a part of it than be in charge.
“He always wanted to know what was going on ahead of time,” continued Horn. “He didn’t want to read about it in the newspapers. He wanted to affect the issues he cared about.”
“Building community doesn’t have to be a big, loud-mouth thing,” said Marianne Hartley, who was superintendent of the Lebanon School District from 2002 to 2017. “It can be a small voice over time. He built community by talking to people, by showing up at events, by being a person in people’s lives. I think more people could find they have a voice by following Gidge’s example. Community-building takes effort, but the payoff is huge. I see a lot of good in our community. I just wish there were more people like Gidge.”
Horn was born on Feb. 27, 1934 on Sixth Avenue in Lebanon. He graduated in 1952 from Lebanon Catholic High School, he ascended to the class of Radar Third Class in the Navy and he earned an accounting degree from La Salle University.
In addition to Jeanette and Steve, Horn is survived by sons Andrew, Gregory, George III and daughter Louise, brothers John and Ron, sisters Gertrude and Anita and 12 grandchildren.
“His family always came first,” said Jeanette Horn. “He certainly was a humble man. He had high, high morals. He always saw the good in people.”
“He never really wanted much,” said Steve Horn. “He never wanted material things. He didn’t want prestige. He did what other people needed to get done. He was probably poor, but didn’t think of himself as poor.”
Horn actively participated in St. Cecilia’s/St. Gertrude’s events like church festivals, fasnacht-making and fundraising dinners, calling bingo and coaching CYO basketball. At Lebanon High School, Horn actively participated in the athletic booster club, he was inducted into the Lebanon High Sports Hall of Fame and was the initial recipient of the Cedar Spirit award, for which he was the inspiration.
In addition, Horn was credited with helping to found the annual Lebanon County Track and Field Championships, held at Lebanon High School every spring.
“He would clean the tables at the church festival in Avon,” said Steve Horn. “But in the process, he’d see people he knew, he’d sit down and talk to them, then get up and clean again. He did everything at the church that required a volunteer.”
“I came to know Gidge when he requested a meeting with me in 2002,” said Bartley. “Of course I met with him, and it was a conversation that kept going for 15 years. He would meet with me once a month, and it would take half an hour. He always had a list of questions, concerns, criticisms and compliments. He was a real asset to the community.
“If we started something new, Gidge would be interested, and he’d want to participate,” continued Bartley. “He was a consistent volunteer, in so many areas. He was so supportive of student initiatives. He understood what we were doing, and that felt good to me as a superintendent. He put the time in, and he got it. He asked questions. He was part of the community. I loved that.”
Horn consistently placed the needs of others ahead of his own. Quick with a compliment and always actively engaged, he preferred to talk about the accomplishments and comings and goings of neighbors’ rather than himself.
One of Horn’s greatest strengths was that he was a terrific listener.
“He was very family-oriented,” said Jeanette Horn. “When I first met him, I’d go over to his house, and I didn’t know who was family and who wasn’t. There were people there all the time. What I heard was that when he was in high school, there were several boys named ‘George’. For some reason, they gave him the name ‘Gidge’, and it stuck. That was his name for the rest of his life. Sometimes people wouldn’t know me, and I’d say ‘I’m Gidge’s wife’. And they’d be like ‘Oh, yes, yes, yes.’
“He was always an ‘East Ender’,” Horn continued. “Hungarians lived there and spoke Hungarian. The east end was the poorer side of town. Hungarian-made bread was called ‘honky’ bread. Mentally, he never left the east end.”
“He lived things his way,” said Steve Horn. “He was very community focused. Almost all the time, he was trying to do something. He wanted to be of some use. But he never wanted to be in charge of things, unless it was for kids. Then he wanted to make sure they were done right.”
“I liked what he did and what he stood for,” said Bartley. “But I grew to know him and love him as a person. He was almost like a de facto member of the school board. People need to be involved to make the system better. He was such a special person. I’ll always remember him. He’s a person who definitely made an impact on my life.”
If Horn’s goal in life was to make an impact on Lebanon, then it was certainly a life well-lived. Not only did he talk about the things that needed to be done, he then went out and did them.
“It was very important to him,” said Jeanette Horn. “I would think he did make a difference. He certainly made a difference in the things he was interested in. Whatever he did, he put his whole heart into it.”
“It’s really difficult to say all the things he did,” said Steve Horn. “It was always about making the city better, making the school better. He was just someone who loved Lebanon. There are things he helped start that continue today. Guys like him are the glue that hold society together. People will remember him for that.”
“He was just a joyful person who appreciated what he had,” said Bartley. “He brought the best out of people. He really was interested in people. That’s how he lived his life. He made his life about other people. If we could carry that spirit of Gidge into the world, that’s the best tribute we could give to his life. Hopefully we can bring that spirit to others.”
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