Historian Converse bequeaths $241K to Red Cross

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American Red Cross volunteer Carolyn Self (left), Red Cross Northeastern North Carolina Chapter Executive Director Cally Edwards (center) and Elliott Converse are shown Tuesday at the Red Cross office in Elizabeth City, where they marked George Converse's donation of $241,531 to the Red Cross. George Converse, a local historian and Elliott's brother, bequeathed the gift to the agency in his will. George died May 2.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Local historian and Marine Corps veteran George Converse passed away last month, but his generous spirit will live on through a nearly quarter-million-dollar gift to the American Red Cross.

The gift — totaling $241,531 — underscores Converse's lifetime of service and charity, his elder brother, Elliott, explained in an interview Tuesday at the Red Cross office in Elizabeth City. Joining Elliott Converse were Red Cross Northeastern North Carolina Chapter Executive Director Cally Edwards, Red Cross volunteer Carolyn Self, and George Converse's estate attorney and friend, John Trimpi.

George, 71, died unexpectedly of a heart attack on May 2 while flying to a class reunion in Montana. A retired Marine lieutenant colonel, George was well-known in Elizabeth City as a writer and historian, with articles often featured in The Daily Advance. His wife, Mary Ann, preceded him in death. He’s survived by Elliott and his two other brothers, Phillip and Vincent.

Elliott said his brother had no children, helping him save up for the gift to the Red Cross. He and his brother come from a family of military and community service, he said.

“We had a very strong sense of what was right and what was wrong,” said Elliott, himself a retired Air Force colonel.

Their father, a Naval officer who later worked for the Red Cross himself, often said “do a common job uncommonly well” — an expression he often heard while mowing the lawn, he noted.

Elliott said his brother did “good things very quietly,” and didn't flaunt his long support for charitable groups, including not only the Red Cross, but the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Food Bank of the Albemarle, and others.

Elliott said he would most remember his brother for his military service, as being someone who always set high standards for himself, and for being an excellent writer.

Trimpi said George wasn't just a client, but his “best friend.” He described George as “interested in everything,” noting he was working on building a rowboat from scratch before he died.

He also called George “one of the most generous people I've known.”

Self said she first met George in 1992, and recalled how he was “a Marine all the way.” He was always proud of his service, she said, noting he served through the Vietnam War era that generated controversy about military service.

George's obituary notes he served 28 years in the Marines as an infantry officer, serving in both Vietnam and Lebanon. He earned a Bronze Star, Legion of Merit and Meritorious Service Medal. A memorial service will be held in Elizabeth City next month.

Edwards offered the Red Cross' thanks for the large donation, a capstone on Converse's long support for the organization.

“This is a really significant gift for us,” she said. “This is really a lifelong gift of savings.”

Edwards noted that Converse’s donation to the American Red Cross didn’t specify that it be used in either the state or region. As a result, the money will support the Red Cross' aid efforts across the nation, she said.

Edwards and Self also noted that, in addition to helping victims of house fires and natural disasters, the Red Cross also helps military service members and their families, including with emergency communications and even support in combat zones.