George David Corey

Corey, George - Photo 1.jpg

George David Corey
December 23, 1948
May 28, 2022

Corey, George - Photo 2.jpg

Portland, ME – George David Corey, an enigma to even those who knew and loved him, passed surprisingly peacefully in the early hours of Saturday, May 28th, 2022 surrounded by his daughter and some of the many healthcare workers who became their family at Maine Medical Center, where he was a resident for the past 2+ years of his life as he valiantly fought against ALS. His beaming smile, quirkiness, brilliance, incorrigibility and stubborn righteousness are dearly missed but not forgotten.

George was born in Lawrence, MA and raised in Nashua, NH. Early and often throughout his life, he pushed the limits, building rockets he would launch in open fields and taking apart just about everything in his house to then figure out how to put it back together. George met his former wife when they were both in graduate school at Boston University, ordering one cup of coffee after another at the restaurant she worked at in order to be able to spend just a little more time with her before finally working up the courage to ask her out. While their marriage did not last forever, his love of coffee persisted. Even when he could no longer drink it orally, he had healthcare workers give him coffee through his feeding tube, much to the chagrin of the GI docs!

After getting too many law degrees, George worked at a myriad of law firms – just long enough for them to realize he had trouble with authority. He offered his (not always requested) legal and technical expertise to several startup enterprises in the Boston area, especially in the biotech field, because of his enthusiasm for technological innovation and the processes of turning ideas into useful products. He was involved in the banking related aspects of severing diplomatic ties with Iran in the wake of the revolution and hostage crisis. One of his favorite tales was of rescuing classified diplomatic signed agreements from a pub after the British liaisons he was working with left their attaché case there, allegedly.

Together, George and his then wife raised their daughter in Newton, MA. A doting father, George played tennis with his daughter, coached her in playing chess until she was good enough to beat the older boys during their annual vacations on Cape Cod, did too much of her homework in the name of perfection and showed her how to use a computer in the early 1990s – striving to raise an empowered and independent young woman.

George found himself in Maine for love and appeared on the South Portland political scene amid a controversy surrounding an oversized propane terminal approved for Rigby Yard. He indefatigably researched the intricacies of federal preemption for regulating railroads under the Commerce Clause and brought to bear his formal training as both a chemist and an attorney to help the grassroots neighborhood opposition to the project. His strategizing and, at times unsolicited, advice faced opposition from those who may have been skeptical that a citizen could emerge from obscurity and offer such depth of legal and technical insight. But that effort was successful and proved wrong the aphorism that “you can’t fight City Hall.”

He continued his political engagement while hospitalized at Maine Medical Center. From his ICU bed when he was initially admitted in November 2019, he encouraged the nurses at Maine Medical Center to unionize and was elated to learn that they were doing just that. One of the first questions George asked when he was considering being placed on a ventilator was: will I make it to the 2020 presidential election? The doctor could not give him a definitive answer, but George willed it into reality. He was able to vote via absentee ballot in that election as well as subsequent ones. If CNN or MSNBC were not on in his room, you knew something was up. Although progressive, he enjoyed engaging in conversations with staff along the political spectrum, and they were oftentimes gracious enough to discuss with him the happenings of the day.

Notoriously late throughout his life, George unfortunately put off seeking healthcare and was diagnosed with ALS in January 2020, when his disease had already progressed. In February 2020, he had to be put on a ventilator. His daughter joked with him that he got in early on the ventilators pre-pandemic, when they became, unfortunately, in short of supply. He survived the pandemic without ever getting COVID and was one of the first patients in the hospital to get fully immunized, then boosted twice. Even in the last weeks of his life, he was advocating to get his fifth shot. With his daughter’s vigilant help, they warded off ever having to tango with COVID in his hospital room.

Throughout his life, George was known as “the loophole artist,” turning most every “no” into a “yes” through quick wit and charm, although he could not loophole his way out of ALS. Maine Medical Center became his home out of necessity, and the bedside healthcare workers there made it the best it could be. There are too few placements for people who are long-term trached and vented, especially those labeled “difficult” as he had been (which was accurate, at times in the best possible way), who do not have the resources to live at home. We all must work towards a world where everyone has access to excellent and free healthcare and that values people with disabilities and ensures that they are able to live their fullest lives on their terms.

Through the power of persuasion and persistence, he ate long after he was trached and vented, against medical advice. It was one of the many fights he had and won with the hospital. He did not pick and choose battles throughout his life – he fought all the battles, all of the time. Food was one of his love languages, whether it was making elaborate breakfasts for his daughter before school or wowing his partner’s family with Lebanese dishes. Some of his favorites during his hospital stay were more simple: broccoli, chicken parm, hummus, McDonald’s fish fillet, olives and feta – insisting that everything be drenched in lemon juice before partaking – and lemon jello. Food along with time with his daughter and loved ones contributed to him choosing to live for as long as he did.

Later in life, he fully embraced his romantic side, writing poems, short stories and screenplays. He had a love of language and particularly appreciated humor and political statements in the writings of others.

He is survived by his daughter, Rachel Rose Hills Corey, who is very much made in his mold and dearly misses her walking (and then bedridden) encyclopedia (aka dad), his former wife, Patricia “Ciael” Elizabeth Hills, his partner, Sharan Townsend, his sister, Jean Gottesman, his nephews – Eric Gottesman, Marc Gottesman and Michael Gottesman – and many friends and foes. He is predeceased by his parents, Rose M. Corey (née Ganem) and Arthur C. Corey.

An inventor, lifelong learner and expert researcher, George continued to do research long after being admitted to the hospital, which is how he found out about the ALS research Dr. Avindra Nath and his team are doing at the NIH. Dr. Nath and his team have been incredibly generous in their time and effort to include him in research, and his brain and tissue have been donated to Dr. Nath’s lab for research on ALS.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in memory of George Corey to the National Institute of Health Neurological Disorders and Stroke Center (NINDS) with a letter stating that the money is to be used to support ALS research efforts in Dr.~Nath’s lab at NINDS.~The web site for information on donations to the NINDS is~ Donations and letters should be sent to:

Financial Management Branch
P.O. Box 5801
Bethesda, MD 20824
A memorial service will be held at the Beach Green on SMCC’s campus in South Portland overlooking Willard Beach – a place he very much enjoyed – on what would have been his 73 ½ birthday, Thursday, June 23rd, 2022 5-6pm. In case of rain, the memorial will be in the all faiths chapel, also on SMCC’s campus. Please wear a mask – Rachel will insist upon it. It will be a place to share stories, poems, songs, corny dad jokes that he would have gotten a kick out of, etc. that remind you of George. Come as you are.

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