February 15, 1999
WOODINVILLE--A Woodinville man who helped his elderly downtown neighbors keep their homes when it looked like they all might be forced out is stepping down from a leadership role there to pursue another opportunity.
George Scrimshaw, 80, will set up West Coast operations for an eastern consulting firm. He says a Connecticut-based firm that assists in the conversion of mobile home parks into cooperatives and condominiums has asked him to use his experience and contacts to form a counterpart in the Pacific Northwest.
Scrimshaw will not run for re-election as president and director of the Canterbury Criers Association later this month. His term ends in June.
"I've about reached the end of the trail in being creative in Canterbury Square. I've always been a problem-solver. The problem here seems to be pretty much solved, and I'd like to take on more problems," said Scrimshaw last week. "Otherwise, it leads to sheer boredom, which I don't want to do. I'd rather die in the saddle."
Scrimshaw and Canterbury Square residents were at the center of the storm during the City of Woodinville's early days. The owners of the Square wanted to redevelop it for other uses. But led by Scrimshaw, a group of residents was able to buy the property and pay off bank loans ahead of schedule. He called the struggle "one of the most pleasant and challenging activities of my life." The story was told across the nation by a New York newspaper. That's where the eastern company found out about Scrimshaw, he said.
Scrimshaw has had a rich and varied life, doing everything from piloting test planes and "bombing" General Patton's tank corps to presiding over an international timber company, managing an Arizona city, and heading up a business that developed the banana box. ("You could carry 40 percent more bananas than on the stem," he notes.)
"I've done a lot of things I never expected to," said the graduate of a small New York high school, who lettered in tennis and basketball and was president of the senior class.
World War II changed things for him. Scrimshaw joined the army and got into flying, eventually serving two tours of duty in Africa and England. In Kentucky, he dropped flour sacks on Patton's tanks to see how real bombs would explode. He exited the service as a major.
Scrimshaw has had experience in lumbering, shipping, and representing companies overseas. After retiring in 1972, he was city manager for Wickenburg, Arizona (near Prescott), and then went to Washington, D.C., where he got to know John McLaughlin, the host of PBS's McLaughlin Group. ("He used to be a priest," Scrimshaw said.)
Scrimshaw came to the area while with Pacific Rim Resources, then, 10 years ago, had a heart attack. "That took the wind out of my sails--I lost a third of my heart," he said. A defibrillator is now buried in his right shoulder.
He moved into Canterbury five-and-a-half years ago. Scrimshaw will continue to live there with his wife of 43 years. They have five children.
He said he will work as a consultant as long as he's in good health. "I want to set things up, structure it, then get out in two years," Scrimshaw said.