In the heart of Oro Valley, one man’s remarkable journey took him from serving in a war to a distinguished career in education.
George DeGregori, 98, affectionately known as Mr. George, made the ultimate sacrifice for his country when he served in World War II.
After returning home from the war, he began pursuing a career in education; including serving as principal for the first graduating class of Canyon Del Oro High School in Oro Valley.
DeGregori’s career in education, however, began as a music teacher in California.
Reflecting on his youth, DeGregori revealed, “In fourth grade, I wanted to be a musician or a teacher when I grew up.”
These days, he enjoys the fruits of retirement, often found sitting in his favorite chair in the corner of his living room, accompanied by his beloved pet cat.
“I enjoy every day because I don’t know how many I’m going to have. I enjoy my family and my caregivers. I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve got a great family,” DeGregori remarked with gratitude.
Born as an only child in the small town of Gustine, California, he expressed how joining the military impacted his life.
“It was exciting for me. I was a little kid from the middle of nowhere. And all of these things that happened to me; meeting new people, seeing things, seeing other parts of the world,” he said.
He served in the U.S. Navy for three years during World War II. Today he is one of approximately 119,000 living veterans of that era.
When he began pursuing his career in education, he never thought that would one day becoming a principal.
“I never ever thought I would be a principal, never wanted to be a principal,” DeGregori admitted.
DeGregori earned degrees from San Jose State and Stanford. After moving to Arizona, he would also get a doctorate from the University of Arizona.
Looking back on his time as principal, DeGregori recalled the remarkable students he had the privilege of educating.
“We had some national merit scholars. We had some great kids…I’ve been very fortunate, Kenny,” he said.
He added that some of those students still keep in touch today.
When asked about the meaning of life, he earnestly shared, “I think families are very, very important. I think that’s what life is all about, I really do.”
Mr. George recently was surprised with a drive-by parade for his 98th birthday on October 14.