CHINA — It was a warm, clear Sunday as hundreds of mourners lined Causeway Road in China to bid their final farewells to longtime China Village Volunteer Fire Department Chief George Studley.

As a long procession of firetrucks from area departments moved in a somber procession from Studley’s home on Danforth Road to what was, in effect, his second home, the firehouse on Causeway Road, onlookers wept, embraced each other and saluted a man who had, in his own unassuming way, become an integral part of their lives and community.

At the head of the procession was the China department’s firetruck, draped with Studley’s yellow turnout gear and helmet. His colleagues, in dress blues, walked alongside the vehicle, their white-gloved hands seemingly guiding it on its journey. Bonnie Studley, George Studley’s wife of 52 years, rode high in a passenger seat in the truck’s cabin. She could be seen looking out as the truck slowed, then stopped as it approached the China station.

As a LifeFlight helicopter hovered overhead, “God Bless America” rang out from a single bagpipe. Then came the dispatch call, summoning Studley as though to a fire. Once, twice, and a third time before the dispatcher fell silent. Chief George Studley did not respond.

From the start of the day’s events, it was clear that Studley’s absence was felt deeply by those who knew him, with many saying they still expected him to wander through their doors in search of coffee and conversation. Just over a week after his unexpected death at age 73 in a head-on collision, the shock of his sudden loss had yet to wear off.

But as mourners followed the procession to the China Conference Center for his memorial service, it was obvious how many people Studley had touched in those 73 years. Lining up in twos, it took more than 20 minutes for his family, friends and admirers to file into the conference center, flanked by his colleagues and followed by a three-man color guard. Once inside, they filled the conference center nearly to capacity, with some sitting on the sides or standing in the back of the hall.


The Rev. Marcia Charles began the service with a tribute to Studley’s “humble, remarkable life.” Looking around at the assembled mass, Charles chuckled as she noted that Studley himself probably would have been “a little blown away by all of this.” She suspected he would rather be fishing.

Instead, he was honored by those who loved him. Charles read through Studley’s biography, prepared in loving detail by his family, from the trials and tribulations of a young boy growing up on Goosepecker Ridge Road in Palermo to his early achievements in football, basketball and baseball.

South China firefighter Cindy Senkbelt places a hand on the turnout gear of the late former China Village Fire Chief George Studley on Sunday during a memorial service for Studley. Studley’s wife, Bonnie, is comforted in background.

There was the summer he first laid eyes on his future wife, as she worked at 14 behind the counter at the Custard’s Last Stand ice cream shop; and the day in 1965 when they married and began building their lives together.

“George was a doer,” Charles noted, a handyman extraordinaire who was popular with the neighborhood ladies. “I don’t know what that means,” Charles said with a wry smile, to laughs.

Much of his life, more than 50 years, was marked by service to others. He joined the Fire Department in 1967 and became its chief in 1977. He served in that role for 37 years, and he was assistant fire chief at the time of his death.

Charles recalled one story about Studley rushing out to help others in an ice storm. When his wife asked why he wasn’t helping her instead, he responded, “Firemen’s wives need to be able to take care of themselves.”


Indeed, those who honored Studley on Sunday thanked him and his family in the same breath, understanding that in order to be there for his community, he had to leave his family, sometimes at all hours and late into the night.

Even so, Studley somehow managed to be a near-constant presence in his family and community, He could be found on the sidelines of every sports game, cheering on grandson Noah, or the other players. Each morning he would walk into his granddaughter Courtney’s house right next door, to say hello.

He was an avid fisherman, hunter and outdoorsman. He would go canoeing and camping with friends, sometimes for days at a time.

By all accounts, Studley was indefatigable and fearless — a quiet, humble and self-possessed force of nature who seemed to run on good food and coffee.

“If there was one person who didn’t waste a minute of the day, it was you,” Courtney wrote of her grandfather for his service. Surveying the room of pained and mourning faces, it was clear that his was time well spent.

Kate McCormick — 861-9218

Twitter: @KateRMcCormick

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