For any organization or community to thrive, it needs selfless individuals to give their time and their effort whenever needed. To motivate and offer support and a kind word often, even at times to criticize constructively when necessary. In short, to be devoted to the cause at all times.
For decades, George “Gidge” Horn was just such a person for Lebanon High School and the community that he loved.
The tireless advocate for LHS students through his work with the school’s Booster Club and frequent attendance at school board meetings, among many other things, passed away earlier this week at the age of 86. He left behind not only his wife, Jeanette, and their five children, Louise, Stephen, Andy, Gregory, and George III, but also a legion of friends and admirers he encountered with a smile through the years. Safe to say, he left a lasting impression on all of them.
Tributes to Horn have been all over social media since he passed from complications from surgery and a broken neck suffered in a fall a few months back, but the most eloquent summation of the man may have come from his obituary, which said simply that “He never wanted to live anywhere else or be anyone else.”
A 1952 graduate of Lebanon Catholic, he was ultimately a Lebanon Cedar at heart, spending over 40 years as an integral part of the Booster Club and almost as long as a regular attendee of the district’s school board meetings, advocating for what he felt was in the best interests of students above all else.
He was also a college graduate (LaSalle), and a Navy veteran and spent most of his work life at the GAO (Government Accountability Office) in Mechanicsburg. But his true life’s work was with the Lebanon School District.
“A giver,” said Mike Kuhn, development director at the Good Samaritan Hospital Foundation and a member of the Lebanon school board for the last 28 years, said in describing the Gidge Horn he remembers. “He had a huge heart, and (he was involved) in so many aspects of the school district, showing up at an elementary school or Biddy basketball game or a school board meeting. I referred to Gidge many times as our 10th school board member. I said we always had an advantage – most school boards only had nine board members. We always had 10. George was almost at every meeting. I’ve been on that board for 28 years – it’s amazing his record of attendance. I bet he was at 80-90 percent of the meetings.”
And he was 100 percent committed to the Booster Club, as president Joan-Marie Norman can attest.
“He loved volunteering, loved all sports but more so, loved the student-athletes,” Norman said. “Gidge provided an extra layer of support to our members and all the coaches. His accounts of so many sporting years in Lebanon County and his never-ending stories will be remembered by all of us.
“Gig was the historian, the motivator, the cheerleader for all of us.”
Former Lebanon High track and field coach Steve Walmer first met Horn during his first season at the helm in 1982 and quickly learned what an energetic and determined man he was about to begin a lengthy friendship with.
“It was mid-April, somewhere between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. and in the middle of a track and field practice,” Walmer recalled. “George came sauntering across the field, introduced himself with a handshake and the smile that no one could say no to. He informed me that the Annville Rotary had just discontinued their annual Lebanon County Track Meet, which was held at Annville-Cleona High School. Gidge asked me if we would be interested in taking on the meet at Lebanon High. I never hesitated and said we would be more than happy to do so. What I didn’t realize is that he wanted me to take it on that same year and put everything together in approximately two weeks. After more discussion, George realized just how much planning was needed before taking on an event like that. We had to get community sponsors to pay for the officials, event judges, buy trophies, medals and ribbons. Unfortunately the meet had to be put on hold for one year.
“Fast forward to the end of April 1983, Gig Horn helped (bring about the) start of Lebanon High School hosting the Lebanon County Track and Field Championship Meet for the next 36 years (until it was canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic this past spring). I give all the credit in the world to George Horn for ensuring that this event continued. He was a true advocate of all high school sports activities.”
And not just for the track and field team. Current Lebanon High boys basketball coach Tim Speraw fondly remembered a man who, while passionate about them, always placed high school sports in their proper perspective.
“Gidge was a great supporter of Lebanon basketball and was a staple at our games since I can remember,” said Speraw, a Lebanon High grad who also played for the Cedars. “He would always seek me out before every game and tell me we were doing a great job. When we weren’t playing well, he would remind me that you’ll have bad games and seasons but it’s about helping to turn these boys into good young men. A simple reminder often needed in this ‘win/loss’ world of sports. I always looked forward to seeing him before games and having a quick, positive conversation. Gig was a great person and will be missed by many.”
Including, of course, his family and close friends, who had a front row seat from which to witness Horn’s passion for LHS.
“Most people leave the Booster Club after their kids graduate,” Greg Horn, a 1986 LHS grad and a former basketball, cross country and track and field athlete said of his dad. “Gidge stayed another 30 years. From the very beginning he was always involved. As a young kid you’re sort of like, ‘Oh, geez, Dad.’ And then you get used to it. As you get older you realize, ‘This is his passion, man.’ Whoever the kid is, he wants to help him.
“It was great having my dad involved all those years. He was such an advocate. He was so proud of Lebanon High School. His passion and belief was that the students and teachers at Lebanon were better than anything out there. And it was unwavering. He knew who he was and he knew what he liked. And he loved Lebanon.”
Former Lebanon High teacher and athletic director Greg Gettle, a close friend of Gidge Horn’s for 40 years, echoed those sentiments.
“He would do anything,” Gettle said. “When I was a teacher he’d say, ‘Find out from all the teachers if they need anything,’ He went to all the board meetings, he worked the refreshment stand at every basketball game. He was in charge of the hurdles at every track meet I can remember. He did everything.”
“Kids were first and that’s why he went to board meetings. He wanted to make sure whatever they were doing was in the best interests of the kids.”
Certainly there are people in every community whose dedication to the greater good is similar to Horn’s. But are there are any who are just like him? Well, that is a matter of some debate. Or maybe none at all.
“I don’t know anybody who impacted the school the way he did all those years,” Kuhn said. “I will miss him, I know his family will miss him, many people will miss him. Sometimes in life, you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. That’s Gidge Horn.”