George William Hirst, prominent United Church of Christ minister in several churches in central Illinois, slipped away on February 2, 2011 of complications of congestive heart disease. He was 89.

George was born in Partridge Kansas to George Walter and Zella Delilah Holliday Hirst on March 1, 1921. He worked on the family farm through World War II. At the end of the war, he began taking courses at Friends University in Wichita Kansas, where he met and married Dolores "Dodie" Moore Harlow, his loving wife of 62 years. George chose to go into the church, and took courses at Chicago Theological Seminary, transferring to Augustana Seminary when he took his first post at Union Congregational Church of Moline, Illinois in 1952.

In 1961, George became pastor at Fondulac Congregational Church in East Peoria, Illinois. George considered himself a “church builder”, having been instrumental in the building drive for Fondulac Congregational Church. He took an active role in the process for the denomination to join the Congregational Church and the Evangelical and Reformed Church to become the United Church of Christ. He was present at the Uniting General Synod in Cleveland, Ohio in June of 1957 where the vote to approve the union was cast. While at East Peoria, he exercised his long-time interest in local and state civil rights, farm worker rights, humanitarian causes and politics in many ways. Also during that time, George wrote a popular series of columns for the Tazewell Courier in East Peoria called "Sour Grapes and Saddle Sores". He actively participated in demonstrations against segregation and the war in Vietnam.

George’s last church was First United Church of Christ in Wyoming, Illinois, where he became pastor in 1971. George was instrumental in creating and nurturing human services in the central Illinois region, such as the Stark County Food Pantry, the recycling program in Stark County, and the Turner House, a resource for people in need. "Sour Grapes" was reinvigorated in the 1990s in the Wyoming Post Herald and later the Stark County News. He wrote his last column in August 2010. A collection of his articles are stored here.

George and Dodie retired from First United in 1986, but remained in Wyoming to continue his work with human services. He was named pastor emeritus upon retirement. In 2010, the couple moved to Arizona near daughter Lisa, where they intended to try out the winters, and it was there where George died.

At heart, George was a kind and gentle man who loved the family farm and farming; and he was loved and respected for his dedication to the improvement of humankind, and his willingness to sacrifice to the individual good of his parishioners, friends and family. Above all, George loved to explore ideas about the universality of human nature. He gardened well into his 80’s and always saw that the wild birds were fed and sheltered. Widely read in philosophy, theology and sociology, George read, thought and conversed in his latter years about the sciences of astronomy and geology. The wonder and beauty of stars and planets, and the mysterious origins of the universe and our planet were a constant theme of his later life.

George's grieving survivors include his widow Dodie; his four children Stephen (Kristin), of Iowa City, Iowa; Kris (Ed) Hirst Nellis also of Iowa City; Lisa (Dan) Roger of Phoenix, Arizona; and David (Marcia) of Bloomington, Illinois. He leaves his brother Allen (Eva) of Hutchinson Kansas, six grandchildren, and dozens of cousins, nieces and nephews, as well as untold numbers of friends and colleagues. He was preceded in death by his parents, his sister Marianne Tucker, and his brother Robert.
Created by steve. Last Modification: Friday 11 of February, 2011 09:50:39 EST by KKris.