eorge Charles Kent, 97, is the patriarch of the Lake Oswego Pickleball Club. Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, he moved to the U.S. after high school and graduated from Ohio State University in 1943. Toward the end of World War II, as an enlisted man in the Army, George was stationed in Portland, Oregon, where he learned map-making skills. The team used aerial photos to construct topographic maps for the possible invasion of Japan. Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed everything.
After V-J Day, he was sent to Manila, and later Tokyo, where he took advanced math, engineering and strength of materials classes provided by the Army.
Upon returning to the U.S., George was re-employed by American Can, in Maywood, Illinois, where he had worked prior to the war. He then went on to Russel Electric, a small company that made motors for jukeboxes, owned by Hotpoint, based in Chicago. In 1949, he met his future wife Barbara, a dietician, who worked at a TB hospital. They were married March 4, 1950. A lifelong learner, in 1953 he completed his master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Daughter Debbie was born in 1954 followed by Trisha in 1956.
In 1962, at age 41, George relocated his family back to Oregon. They settled in Lake Oswego, where he purchased a sailboat and joined the Rose City Yacht Club. Still an active member, tray in hand and khaki-clad, he recently served ladies at the club’s annual dinner. The scenic Columbia River Gorge, serene waters of the San Juan Islands, and—accessible only by boat—Octopus Islands in Canada were some of the family’s many sailing destinations.
He worked for Viewmaster in Beaverton for 10 years, then Drake Willock, a company that made dialysis machines. Dow Chemical eventually bought Drake, so George is considered a retired Dow employee.
George had learned to play tennis and downhill ski at the age of 8 in the Czech Republic. Moving to Oregon reignited his love for both. Towering evergreens, stunning fall foliage and craggy mountainous areas were reminiscent of his childhood home. At 95, he gave up both. One week later, after a gentle nudge from his friend of nine years, Steve Boyle, George hit the pickleball court. He’s been a regular ever since.
Though most of George’s childhood friends are gone, he’s optimistic: “Pickleball keeps me moving, people are very tolerant of my mistakes and the group couldn’t be nicer.”
According to a 2012 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, loneliness is a contributing cause of “functional decline and an increased risk of death among adults older than 60.” George counts dozens of new friends. Many joined together to celebrate his 97th birthday last March donning t-shirts that read, “George, at 97, is our SUPER HERO.”
And although George can’t “change the course of mighty rivers” or “bend steel in his bare hands,” he is our Superman—and like his t-shirt reads, pickleball is his SUPERPOWER!