Georg Steinmeyer passed away recently, just a few weeks after his wife, Hanne.
Georg was a very interesting person. He grew up in Germany as part of the Steinmeyer organ building family, and came to Brattleboro in the fall of 1955 to work as Director of the pipe organ division of the Estey Organ Company. He often told the story of getting a transatlantic phone call in Europe from the United States, a rare occurrence, asking him to take the job.
Unfortunately, Estey’s days were numbered. Georg helped to oversee the building and installation of the final pipe organs built by the company.
When the company closed, he did other work to keep his family afloat — making recordings with E. Powers Biggs, teaching, and getting involved with community organizations such as the BMC and the Bach Festival, the Vermont Humanities Council as a speaker, and a founding member of the Estey Organ Museum. He’s been interviewed on NPR’s Pipe Dreams program, and featured in organ-related magazines.
Georg loved to keep moving. He couldn’t stop. He liked to run, ski, and kayak, and did the German-language announcing for the Brattleboro Ski Jump for many years.
He kept his house in excellent shape, and liked to drive fast in his German-engineered VW.
For some, he could come off as a bit pushy at times. He could be difficult and stubborn. But, his drive and determination made things happen. He worked tirelessly to make the walk-through pipe organ at the museum, developed a lecture series on organ-building with slides and musical selections, designed and hosted organ tours of Germany, and created an exhibit on the early electronic organs of Harold Bode. Every project both drove fellow-board members crazy, at times, and was then something the museum could crow about.
Georg was unique.
There was the time I helped him remove a pipe organ from the Masonic center in Hinsdale, pipe by pipe. And all the times spent improving the Engine House for the museum.
I recall one of many drives with Georg: he would speed along the highway, then lean over an whack me on the arm, and point out something beautiful out the window. “See? See?” It would be a bird, or a tree, or a stream, or a mountain. A few minutes later it would repeat, when Georg spotted something else he found amazing. Whack! “See? Look!”
He told me of growing up in Germany and coming of age during World War II. I’m sure I have some of the details wrong, but his basic story was that he escaped fighting in the war by a series of situations that included good timings, illnesses, captures, and trainings. For a while, he and others were”locked” up in a village, he said, much like Brattleboro.
One interesting aspect to this story was that a fellow pipe organ builder, John Wessel, also grew up during the war, but his memories were of atrocities committed by Germans. Decades later, John remained distrustful of Georg. They would be polite to one another in person, of course, but the WWII had never really ended.
Georg loved Bach. He loved photography. He loved living, in the fullest sense of the word.
Georg loved his children and grandchildren. More than anything he loved his wife, Hanne. He would do anything for her. As she declined in activity, he increased his efforts. He made improvements to their home to enhance her mobility. He took her to doctors. He kept her alive and active. And she him.
When Hanne passed not long ago, I knew that Georg could finally rest and that it wouldn’t be long before he would join her. He wasn’t the type to be able to be apart from her.