George J. Kertesz, BGen USAF, Ret., “Headed West” on February 23, 2024.

George Joseph Kertesz, age 95 of Sarasota, FL, passed away on Friday, February 23, 2024, peacefully in the company of his family.

Born May 28, 1928 in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Dr. Geza and Theresa Kertesz, George excelled at basketball and football while his brother Joe set records running track. While attending North High School, George met the woman he was meant to marry, Ellen JoAnn Egan. During their courtship, George joined the Air Force as an aviation cadet in July 1950, to pursue a career as an Air Force Officer. George and JoAnn were married on August 8, 1951 and set off for their first military posting in Waco Texas the following day. George earned his wings, finishing pilot training at Vance AFB in Enid, Oklahoma where he was to serve as Wing Commander later in his career.

His military assignments took George and his family of five children across many continents, including postings in England, Germany, Vietnam (wartime) and Iran. George survived being shot down in his F-100 during the Vietnam War and ensured the safety of 400 American servicemen as the Ayatollah Khomeini faction overthrew the Shah of Iran. He distinguished himself through his devotion to his country and was awarded the Purple Heart for injuries sustained in Vietnam and the Silver Star for uncommon courage and valor while saving the lives of a grounded helicopter crew under attack by Russian Mig fighters.

While in the service of the Air Force, George earned a Bachelor of Air Science degree at Oklahoma State University and Masters of Business Administration from the George Washington University, Washington, D.C. George was also a graduate of the Air Command and Staff college.

Following 30 years of meritorious service George made the two star General promotion list, which he declined, and retired as a Brigadier General from the Pentagon in 1982. He and JoAnn moved to Davenport Iowa, where he began a second career as a business leader, taking the helm of the Schebler Company. During the 18 years George led the company, it grew tenfold, while he and JoAnn became part of the fabric of the community, making friends they would cherish the rest of their lives.

Following the sale of the Schebler Company in 2000, Sarasota, Florida became home to George and JoAnn for the balance of their years. They embraced their new lifestyle hosting friends at their home on a lake in the Meadows, while enjoying golf and tennis in their free time.

George was blessed with a keen intellect, quick wit, a sweet personality and a humble demeanor. Beyond his many accomplishments, his most significant contributions were as a son and brother, a friend and role model, a loving husband of 68 years to JoAnn (Joey) and a most extraordinary father and human being.

He is survived by his children, Georgianne (Jim) Hagerty of Tempe, AZ; Jerry (Lisa) Kertesz of Tucson, AZ; Theresa (Everett) Nickolin of Mission Viejo, CA; Susie Collingwood (Joe) of Sarasota, FL; by 12 grandchildren: Ashleigh, Jessica, Ashleigh, Lindsay, Ashley, Kelsey, Brianna, JoAnn, Nick, Molly, Andrew, Alex; by 5 great grandchildren, Lucas, Xander, Hampton, Hudson and Charlotte.

George was preceded in death by his grandparents, parents, brother, Joseph, daughters Barbara and Patrice, and his wife, JoAnn.

The family will hold a Memorial Service at a date to be determined. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Tidewell Hospice or the Salvation Army.

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