George Weyerhaeuser Obituary (1926 – 2022)

George Weyerhaeuser 
July 8, 1926 – June 11, 2022 
Lakewood, Washington – George H. W. Weyerhaeuser Sr. 

It is very challenging to write the summation of a long and deeply fulfilling life. When a person has been so many things to so many people, how do you choose which accomplishments to list and which interests to highlight? For a man whose long life involved working with numerous teams of individuals in business endeavors across the country and around the world, it becomes only possible to give a hint of what has been. For a big family used to relying on a man of true character, reliable strength, and a powerful smile, there can’t possibly be fine enough words to capture a full sense of the man we have loved. 

Our hearts are heavy in telling the news that George Weyerhaeuser Sr. passed away in his sleep on Saturday, June 11, 2022. He was 95 years old when he died at his home. His family is grateful for the time we had with him this spring as he was able to celebrate a family wedding with most of his family gathered together. George lived in Tacoma, Washington for most of his life, and worked for the Weyerhaeuser Company for his whole career. 

For people who knew George, it will be very difficult, for a long time to come, to comprehend how he could be gone. When he was in a room, people naturally pulled close to hear him. His personal presence was powerful and his charisma felt like a beam of light. He achieved great things in his career as the CEO of the Weyerhaeuser Company and he also had a large scope of impact on his friends and family. He was honorable, confident, and optimistic. He liked to focus on getting things done. Often corporate leaders are thought to be isolated and alone in the heights of their responsibilities. He was a team player who worked hard. He wanted his office to be out on the floor with his executive team, working in the daily grind of decision-making and policy formation. He liked people. When you were with him, you would feel his warmth and his focus on you. This was great motivation for people around him. 

George Hunt Walker Weyerhaeuser was born on July 8, 1926. HIs parents were Helen Walker Weyerhaeuser and J.P. (Phil) Weyerhaeuser Jr.. During the early years of his life, the family lived in Idaho, and then moved to Tacoma in 1933. George went to the Taft School in Watertown, CT for high school. He was an avid athlete and competitive student and he made lifelong friends there. He later served as a Trustee for the school. He served in the Navy from 1944-46, a young entrant as the war was winding down. He studied engineering and received a B.S in Industrial Administration from Yale University in 1949. 

Fame came to George very early in his life as an 8-year old child, in a way that he never wanted to assume as part of his own identity. During the Depression, in 1935, he was kidnapped. The kidnappers held him for 8 days but he did not let that experience derail his life nor cloud his feelings towards other people. When speaking to Sports Illustrated in 1969 he said, “A boy is a pretty adaptable organism. He can adjust himself to conditions in a way no adult could. It didn’t affect me personally as much as anyone looking back on it might think.” Years later he wrote the parole board supporting release for one of the kidnappers, and offering him a job to help his transition back into society. 

George married Wendy Wagner, on July 10, 1948, in a beautiful outdoor wedding at Lakewold Garden, which was her parents’ home at that time. Their lifelong love for each other brought much joy to their family and their friends. George inherited from his family a very strong work ethic. In the early years of his career, he worked in mills in Longview, WA and Springfield, OR, and then moved up to positions of manager and vice president in several divisions of the Weyerhaeuser Company. He became a young CEO for Weyerhaeuser Company at the age of 39. 
George led the company through much innovative work in research and development through deeper success at reforestation, tree-farming and forest management. He worked for years on a plan to build a new Corporate Headquarters in Federal Way, Washington, that used an open floor plan to encourage communication across departments and centralized management. The building was at the forefront of modern design for a corporate work setting and won awards including one for environmental merit. 

George’s leadership was fundamental to the growth of the company. Charles Bingham, George’s executive vice president of timberlands and corporate affairs said, “George could have led any company, in any industry, in this country or in the world.” George Weyerhaeuser was a people person all his life. He cared deeply about the employees of the Weyerhaeuser Company and the people who lived in the mill towns of his business. These were a priority for him and weighed into his decisions. 

George served on the Boards of: The Boeing Company, SAFECO Corporation, Standard Oil of CA, and The Rand Corporation. He was a member of : The Business Roundtable; Council on Foreign Relations; Board of Visitors, UPS School of Law; Advisory Board, Graduate School of Business Administration, U. Of Washington; Japan-California Association, The Business Council; the Federal Reserve Board of San Francisco; and the Washington Council on International Trade, among others. There was an oil tanker named for him by Chevron while he was serving on that board. 

As CEO of Weyerhaeuser, George engaged in long business relationships with Japanese companies. He received several gifts of precious bonsai trees. From this beginning, he collected the trees that now make up the Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way, WA, that is part of the campus of the former Weyerhaeuser Headquarters. George was devoted to this organization up until his death. 

After decades of being an avid tennis player, he spent his final years watching the tennis channel, doing sudoku and reading The Economist. George was predeceased by his sisters, Ann Pascoe and Elizabeth (Wiz) Meadowcroft; his brother, J.P. (Flip) Weyerhaeuser Jr.; and by his wife of 66 years, Wendy W. Weyerhaeuser who passed away in 2014. Sadly, he was also predeceased by his son, George Weyerhaeuser Jr. in 2013 and his grandson Karl Griggs in 2014. He is survived by his children: Merrill Weyerhaeuser (Patrick Welly), David Weyerhaeuser (Sarah), Phyllis Griggs, Sue Messina (Bob Newkirk), daughter-in-law Kathy McGoldrick, Leilee Weyerhaeuser (Damian Rouson), 15 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren and numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. 

In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to one of the following organizations: the Pacific Bonsai Museum, the Forest History Society or the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation. A memorial service is being planned but no date has yet been set.