George Stewart Morefield, 90, of Huntsville passed away peacefully after a brief illness on November 1, 2020 at Hospice Family Care in Huntsville with his family by his side.
George was born on July 13, 1930 in National City, California, the only child of Aileen Chase Morefield and George Edward Morefield. “Stewart” to his family, he fondly recalled his young years near San Diego Bay during the Great Depression with many aunts, uncles and cousins looking out for one another.
In the days after the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the San Diego area went on alert and his father became an air raid warden while 11-yr-old Stewart became a messenger. He recalled that “aircraft spotter towers were built across the city and I helped crew one before and after school… there was a commotion on the vacant lot next to our house one night and, in the morning, a 3-inch antiaircraft gun and crew were there, ready for action. I became the instant envy of my friends who could only claim a searchlight or listening post in their neighborhoods… Dad and I spent our nights enforcing the blackout rules in the neighborhood… For an 11-yr-old boy it was a heady time, though tragic for so many. But the spirit that prevailed in our community is something I will never forget.”
In 1942, when George was just 12 years old, his father died of cancer.
He attended Sweetwater Union High School in National City and graduated from Benton High School in St. Joseph, Missouri, in 1948. He graduated from University of Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy in 1952 with a BS in Chemical Engineering and a commission as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
George immediately was hired as a rocket design engineer at U.S. Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS), China Lake, California. After only two months at NOTS, he was called to Army active duty, and attended Chemical Corps basic officer course at Ft. McClellan, Alabama. He was then assigned to Fort Ord, California in preparation for transfer to Nevada Test Site (NTS) for a series of above-ground nuclear weapon tests. At NTS, he performed radiological safety services for combat troops participating in tactical operations close to detonations. When the test series ended, he was transferred to Chunchon, Korea as a chemical technical intelligence officer.
In 1954 George was released from Army active duty at captain's rank and returned to NOTS where he continued rocket design work on various weapon systems. At China Lake in 1957 he met and married the love of his life, Patricia. In 1959 they relocated to Sunnyvale, California where they would live and raise their family for 18 years.
George worked for 2 years at Lockheed Missiles and Space Company in Sunnyvale, where assignments consisted of design work on submarine-launched ballistic missiles (Polaris) and technical liaison with Lockheed subcontractors. In 1961 George began his career with United Technologies Corporation, Chemical Systems Division in Sunnyvale in design and development of large solid propellant booster rockets for military and NASA space launch vehicles.
He developed secondary-injection thrust vector control systems for the USAF Titan III series of heavy-lift vehicles. He became Chief Engineer of the Titan III solid rocket stage for vehicles which launched the Voyager satellites and the array of satellites which became the basis for the current GPS navigation systems. He traveled extensively to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Vandenberg AFB for readiness reviews and problem resolution.
The family relocated to Huntsville in 1977 when UTC Chemical Systems Division bid on and won the Solid Rocket Booster Assembly Contract for NASA's Space Launch System (Space Shuttle). George was named Chief Engineer for the subsidiary formed in Huntsville to execute the contract, United Space Boosters, Inc. He oversaw design and development of structures, electronic systems, range safety systems, booster separation rockets, recovery parachutes, instrumentation, and refurbishment of reusable components. He participated in numerous Shuttle launches at Kennedy Space Center. He retired from USBI in 1987 and consulted for them until 1993.
George is remembered by his family as a devoted husband, a proud father and grandfather, a generous, gentle man of integrity who loved unconditionally. When his kids were small, he often made pancakes on Saturday mornings and watched cartoons with them, usually laughing harder and longer than they did. He faithfully documented their lives as the family photographer. He was involved in all activities his children participated in as a swim meet official, little league coach and umpire, Indian Guides leader, and supportive audience member at countless recitals, school plays, science fairs and sports tournaments.
In each home he had, George’s garage was a place of possibility, care, craftsmanship - a fully stocked, prepared and organized place where things could be built, repaired or just explored. This had a huge impact on his children, growing up with a Dad who could confidently apply himself to maintaining or building things (all that furniture!) for the family and the greater community (starting blocks, lane line reel). He took pleasure in doing things right, not just getting it done. He was a person who saw the value in maintaining things and made it a routine in his life. It's the essence of who he was.
As a lifelong railroad history enthusiast, George enjoyed building model railroads to entertain his children and grandchildren (and himself), and helped support restoration of the Virginia and Truckee Railroad in western Nevada. He was a lifelong collector of western art and supported many arts organizations in Huntsville, including the Community Chorus and the Huntsville Museum of Art. In retirement, George and Pat visited and revisited their favorite places out west, including Virginia City and the Carson Valley in Nevada. Trips to Vermont, Texas, California and Nevada for graduations and weddings were very special to him. His nine grandchildren were regularly treated to rides in the trailer behind his John Deere lawn tractor and fireworks on the 4th of July. In recent years, George was involved in coordinating the annual Veterans Day program at Magnolia Trace where he and Pat have lived since 2012. He also enjoyed co-moderating Socrates Café meetings and helping to facilitate the Sunrise Saturday breakfast gatherings.
George was preceded in death by his parents, his son Mark Steven Morefield, and his nephew Michael Strathdee.
Survivors include his beloved wife of 63 years, Patricia (Stevens) Morefield of Huntsville; son Dr. James Morefield and wife Leslie of Minden, NV; daughter Christianne Slate and husband Geoffrey of Wolcott, VT; daughter Liana McStravick and Mike McStravick of Dallas, TX; grandchildren Claire McStravick, Cameron Morefield, Meredith Slate, Erin McStravick, Shaelin Morefield, Margaret Slate, Colin McStravick, Charles Slate, and Hugh McStravick; cousin Neil Morefield and wife Kathy of Auburn, CA; sister-in-law Jean Strathdee and husband Jim of Carmichael, CA; sister-in-law Elizabeth Stevens; niece Julie Strathdee; niece Rachel Strathdee Miller and husband Brian, great-niece Savanah Miller, and great-nephew Sam Miller.
Memorial services will be held when it is safe to gather. Memorial gifts can be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
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St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
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