A century of laughter and invention

November 28, 2004

Deepa Bharath

There could have been many reasons why George Sherrill lived to be


But what probably got him through a whole century was his ability

to laugh, relax and let go.

George was an inventor by profession -- anti-bug shelf paper,

suntan lotion and a treatment for genital herpes were some of his


inventions -- and he tested hundreds of products during his lifetime.

Some he tested on himself and willing friends or neighbors.

George was born in Tacoma, Wash. on March 30, 1904. His childhood

was rough. He lost his father as a child and grew up poor. That's

probably what motivated him and gave him that insatiable appetite for


He not only completed high school, but got his bachelor's degree

in science with a major in chemistry from the University of Idaho. As

a student, he worked in the frat houses, did his course work and

still managed to read a classic novel a day. George was unstoppable.

His work as a chemical salesman brought him to Glendale, Calif.,

in the '40s. He loved Newport Beach because he thought it was a

low-key, pretty place. He decided to build a home on Newport Island

in 1946 with his bare hands. It took a lot of guts, but George had

more than enough.

He had the support of his wife Rene then and through most of his

life. George once gave Rene a saw for Christmas and the couple spent

many nights under the moonlight putting shingles on the roof of their

Newport Island home. It was his idea of romance.

George had a great sense of humor. Even at 100, the little kid in

him would surface every now and then.

He had the ability to laugh at himself, and that helped him as an

inventor. George once claimed he had invented a powder to kill wooly

worms. He invited several scientists over to his workshop to show

them his latest invention.

He sprinkled the powder on the creatures and the worms just got on

top of it and crawled away. It didn't work as he thought he would,

but George just had a good laugh about it.

He was a free spirit. Once a friend saw George lying on the beach

with one side of his body covered with sunscreen and the other side

without sunscreen. He was burned like toast on one side. When the

friend asked him what he was doing, George simply replied: "Go away,

I'm working."

He was also active in the community. He enjoyed interacting with

people. George was kind-hearted, sensitive to people's needs and

never hesitated to help.

An avid boater, George was aprominent member of the Balboa Power

Squadron, the local chapter of a sail and power-boating group.

He was a Parks and Recreation Commissioner for the city. George

was also one of the first presidents of the Friends of UC Irvine.

He was a staunch Republican and was a founding member of the then

famous Goofoffers Club, a political discussion group that met in a

Lido Village coffee house called The Goofoffers.

George traveled all over the world. He was a travel photographer

and would give lectures after he returned home. George also helped

fund research in virology at UC Irvine's School of Medicine.

In his 90s, George took a course on virology at the institute.

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