BARDWELL -- After his service as an artilleryman in World War II, life for Thomas Elsey George settled down into a normal existence -- marriage, employment, community service and church involvement -- and that was all right with him.
Despite his military experience and accolades, for his loved ones, George's greatest impact may have been in the more than seven decades after his Army service.
On Monday, friends and family of George, who died Thursday exactly a month shy of his 101st birthday, gathered at Bardwell Baptist Church then braved gusty wind and temperatures in the 30s for a graveside service at Roselawn Cemetery.
According to his memoir "The Ways of War," George was drafted at age 23 in 1942, and served more than three years in the European theatre, where he experienced heavy combat during the Battle of Anzio, which claimed the lives of more than 7,000 Allied troops.
He earned five bronze stars during his time in the Army.
George would talk about his wartime experiences, but only when asked, said his great-nephew Chris George, who officiated the funeral service.
He said his great uncle "served as a surrogate grandparent" after his grandfather, Thomas George's brother, died unexpectedly.
"He stepped up and stepped in and made our lives better and brighter and richer," Chris George said, adding he meant the last part literally.
"You never left Uncle Tom's house without a $5 bill in your pocket," he laughed.
He recalled a man who was known to have the best house to go to at Halloween, who never felt the need to impress people intellectually and who showed inspirational devotion to his second wife, Jo, whom he married after his first wife died.
"Jo would always be his beautiful bride, and Tom would always be her handsome groom," Chris George said, praising the man's dedication to caring for his wife despite her declining health to the point where she couldn't remember him anymore.
"This is when Tom proved he was a real hero," he said.
In addition to his wartime remembrances, Thomas George also wrote another memoir of his younger years, titled "All of My Yesterdays."
Reading an excerpt from that work, Chris George quoted his uncle's words reflecting on the decades that weren't covered within its pages.
"The rest of my life, from 27 to 77 has just been everyday livin'."
"Tom George's everyday living was better than almost anyone I know. His every day and ordinary was really extraordinary," his great nephew said, recalling the man as one who had "learned the secret of being content."
He praised his great uncle's dedication to God and his community, and said he "awoke in a world far better, where his heart would no longer need a battery … where his joys would be made complete, where his faith would be made sight, where he would meet his savior face to face."
"Rest well Thomas George, American hero, child of God."
After the ceremony, the family gathered at Roselawn Cemetery, where an Army bugler played Taps and two soldiers presented Thomas George's sister, Evelyn Wilson, with the flag that had draped his casket.