George F. Wedel (1917-2011) was a true-blue Chicagoan. Born in the Lake Park Community on Chicago's Southside, he spent most of his life in the Garfield Ridge neighborhood. He was a consummate Chicagoan in his devotion to his family and neighborhood, his work in the iconic Campbell Soup Company, his stalwart support of the Chicago Cubs, and his 40-year participation as an Educational Model in Prosthetics at the Northwestern University Prosthetics-Orthotics Center (NUPOC).
In 1936 George began working in the Tomato Yard at the Campbell Soup Company, in Brighton Park, IL. The next year at the age of 19, George lost his arm to a machine accident in the plant. His grandson, Anthony Bartolomeo, recalled George speaking of the accident, "I remember standing there looking down at my arm." The company gave him a 2 year leave of absence for rehabilitation. Within the first year, George was eager to return to work but was not allowed.
When he returned to work, he was promoted to foreman in the Plant Service Department where he met a fellow forelady, Miss Irene Granowski. Their relationship blossomed into a true love and by 1946 George and Irene were married. A year later they welcomed their son, George, followed by their daughter, Susan. During their lifetime together, George enjoyed pointing out that it was Irene who had asked him out to their first date! They were life partners until Irene passed away in 1996.
After 60 years with the Campbell Soup Company, George retired from the firm in 1965. Several years later, he began his association with NUPOC, where he volunteered as an Educational Model in Prosthetics. He thoroughly enjoyed his volunteer activity and for 40 years continued to give generously of his time and energy at NUPOC! He was fascinated with the science of prosthetics. He influenced decades of NUPOC prosthetics students. NUPOC staff and students remember him with great fondness for his congenial and kind manner. Never cross, shorttempered, or critical with the student prosthetists, his patience and kind nature made him a favorite Educational Model. A tolerant and forgiving person, George always gave people the benefit of the doubt. As his grandson Anthony Bartolomeo expressed, "He never judged others by what he saw with his eyes, but responded to what he saw with his heart."
George was a Chicagoan through and through. A pioneer in Chicago's Garfield Ridge neighborhood, he loved drinking Budweiser on the porch with his neighbors. He loved watching wrestling and competitive sports such as baseball. Naturally, he was a Cubs fan. He often spoke of having attended the 1945 World Series – yet another loss for the Chicago Cubs! He loved to play Bunco with his sisters. Throughout his retirement years, George maintained a lively interest in guns, British bulldogs, woodworking, and whiskey. George loved his British bulldogs and named each one, successively, Smash. He took an interest in breeding bulldogs and was pleased with their offspring.
Living with an amputation did not define George; rather, resilience and warm relationships with others distinguished his life. Grandsons Anthony and Louie Bartolomeo reflected that George was devoted to his family and his six grandchildren who survive him loved him deeply miss his participation in their lives, and daily For 40 years George Wedel volunteered as an Educational Model in prosthetics at NUPOC. Shown here in his 90s, he was a favorite of prosthetics staff and students. George Wedel with his English bulldog, Smash, in the background. remember the ways he touched their lives.
George met the unexpected hardships of life with fortitude and determination. He worked to overcome the loss of his arm, the death of his beloved wife and colon cancer in his mid 70s, a hip replacement at age 87, and a pacemaker at age 94. Anthony and Louie recalled George Wedel with affection and respect, "Our grandfather was always supportive. He was there for us when we were hurt and guided us through tough times when we needed help. He showed us how to love and how to live. He showed us how to live a life to the fullest. On February 9, 2011 we lost the grandest grandfather."
George generously gave his time and energy at NUPOC as an Educational Model for 40 years! We deeply appreciated his commitment to the education of prosthetists at NUPOC. The staff and students of NUPOC miss George Wedel, and we remember him with fondness and deep appreciation.
(Story by R. J. Garrick, PhD)
Become an Educational Model
If you have a physical disability or use a prosthesis or orthosis and would like to volunteer as an Educational Model at NUPOC, please contact Ken Harris.