Cover photo for George David Hessenthaler's Obituary
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1940 George 2023

George David Hessenthaler

January 25, 1940 — July 9, 2023

On a lovely July summer day, George shuffled off this mortal coil and went to prove his long-held theory that the great beyond is definitely filled with glorious trees of every sort. While Parkinson’s disease dulled his physical strength over the last few years, it never dimmed his smile, his intellect, his sense of humor, or his love of life. His illness was only a fleeting chapter in an otherwise effervescent, eccentric, and wonderful life. He was truly unique and special. George was the guy you’d want in the foxhole with you – a problem-solver, an eternal optimist, a make-do-with-what-we've-got MacGyver type, and the guy who’d sacrifice everything for those he loved. As a friend recently noted, "I never knew anyone who had so little to give so much." He had the wonderful ability of seeing the very best parts of folks, no matter whoever they were and regardless of their station in life. He didn’t care about money or status, only that he had a satisfied mind. He was an artist, a woodworker, an entrepreneur, a lover of music (who couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket), a prolific writer and poet, an inventor, an avid reader, a fisherman, a master box maker, and one astonishingly great guy!

George was born and raised in Orange County, California by his parents Raymond and Hazel. He was an only child and lost his father when he was just 15 years old, so he always yearned for a larger family. He maintained close ties with several of his grade school buddies for nearly 80 years! Once you were in George’s circle of friends, you had a loyal and loving friend for life. George enlisted in the US Navy shortly after high school. Before he could hit basic training, though, he joined the LDS church. He embraced his new-found faith with the same zeal he displayed for all the things he loved. He loved his Navy adventures while serving as a signalman on the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany.

After completing his military service, George took another path – a recurring theme in his life. Without purse or scrip, he served an LDS mission in London, England. This seemingly simple decision forever changed the course of his life. His mission president, Marion D. Hanks, became his life-long mentor, teacher, friend, and father-figure. His mission companions became his dearest friends, supporters, and the life-long brothers he never had.

George attended BYU in Provo, Utah and honed his writing skills while earning a degree in Journalism. George fell in love with two things at BYU: 1) the power of words, and 2) a beautiful woman from Montana named Helen Blomquist. They married in 1966 and raised 5 children together – Heidi (Al) Jorgensen, Holly (Mike) Walster, Ryan (Annetta) Hessenthaler, Heather (Ryan) Romano, and Tony (Shani) Hessenthaler. The family enjoyed many camping trips, Hawaii adventures, road trips, Montana escapades, and quality time together. After raising the kids, George and Helen divorced but remained amicable and kind to each other.

George worked as freelance writer for various periodicals and as an account manager for a marketing firm, but corporate culture wasn’t a great fit for George. He took another fun tangent when he built an Angelfish hatchery in the unfinished basement of the family home. To provide for his growing family, he turned to a nascent love – woodworking. George made beautiful custom cabinets and doors for over 15 years.

George invented a number of tools that he manufactured and sold for decades. He would go on to receive dozens of patents on his inventions for everything from magnetic jointer knife setting jigs to brass compression splines and hidden hinges. His hand drafted technical drawings for his patents are works of art. He took his teenaged kids on business trips and to woodworking conventions all over the country to sell his Magna-Set suite of tools. The conventions were cool; the one-on-one time with our Dad was priceless.

Despite the success George enjoyed with his tool manufacturing business, he never fully escaped the allure of fine woodworking. Once again, he pursued an alternative path and established a wood milling and specialty wood business called Urban Forest Woodworks. This endeavor proved to be his life’s calling and his true passion project. George recycled and reused the lumber from discarded hardwood trees to create beautiful, handcrafted jewelry boxes, display cases, and other works of art. He worked tirelessly, perfecting his craft, and inventing new tools and jigs to make things “just right.” He loved all the varieties of wood he worked with, but Black Walnut was his unofficial favorite. He wore out his back, knees, and hands as he poured his heart and soul into his creations. He had the strongest Popeye-type forearms you’ve ever seen and vise-grips for hands. He always said he wanted to die just moments after putting the final touches on the perfect box (his magnum opus). In our view, George made more than a few perfect boxes, and we’re lucky enough to have a few of them to remember his amazing talents.

When George was willing to set down the woodworking tools and take a break from his labors (which wasn’t too often), he was a voracious reader, he loved to watch movies of all types, he was a great fly fisherman, and he loved playing Jeopardy and the Dictionary game. He had an incredible green thumb and grew the most amazing gardens. He loved dancing and singing along with his favorite music, he loved telling outrageous stories with excruciating details, and loved laughing until he cried. He was a prolific poet, writing hundreds of poems; some poignant, others contemplative, but most were hilarious or irreverent in some surprising way. He loved his cats, his fruit trees, his grapevines, his raspberry patches, and his honeybees.

He loved his family. He loved his closest companions over the years – Helen, Lorna, and Alison. The selfless care and attention Alison provided in his final years was truly a labor of love and one that was so sweet and tender to witness. He loved his kids and grandkids and was so proud of their accomplishments – big or small, it was all celebrated by George. He loved playing crazy games with his grandkids with ever-changing rules like Penny Snatch, Color Grandpa’s Beard, Nickel Roll, Hold ‘Em, Roll-in-the-Grave, and PIT.

George is survived by his wife, Alison McCandless, his 5 children, 16 grandchildren, 1 great grandchild, and countless friends. George’s wish was to be cremated and to have his ashes spread among his favorite trees. A private memorial will be held for family and close friends on Saturday, August 5th, 10:00am, at Adams Park Pavilion (550 N 500 E) in Logan, Utah. In lieu of flowers, please donate to TreeUtah.org or plant a tree in your yard. As George would exclaim – there’s always room for one more.
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If you are interested in reading more about George's passion project, he was featured in a few news stories over the years.
News Story 1 - www.hjnews.com/arts_entertainment/urban-renewal-george-hessenthaler-finds-new-uses-for-old-wood/article_5ed7cb2c-b37b-11e2-9aad-0019bb2963f4.html

News Story 2 - www.standard.net/lifestyle/2012/apr/29/for-the-love-of-trees/

News Story 3 - www.hjnews.com/boxes-fit-for-a-gold-medal/article_fe92bcac-8a79-5c66-8497-a087031ade3e.html
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of George David Hessenthaler, please visit our flower store.

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