Most people around Lincolnton probably know George Fawcett for his work in the study of UFOs. However, there is a big part of Fawcettâ€™s life that most people do not know about: his work with the YMCA.
A North Carolina native, Fawcett grew up in Mt. Airy, a contemporary of Andy Griffith. He remembers playing basketball with Griffith and seemed to know early on that Griffith may be destined for a career in entertainment.
â€œI threw the ball to him and he ducked,â€ Fawcett said. â€œMy feeling was he might not be athletic, but he might be a comedian someday.â€
Fawcettâ€™s started down his own career path in high school. He was a member of the Hi-Y Club, a student service club sponsored by the YMCA. Fawcettâ€™s involvement with the club had a profound effect on him.
â€œI was involved with Hi-Y in 1946 and 1947,â€ said Fawcett. â€œI was involved with both spiritual and physical activities, and that got me into the third arm of the Y, the mind.â€
After high school, Fawcett spread his intellectual wings studying at several colleges, including Davidson and Presbyterian Junior College. He earned an associateâ€™s degree from Lees McRae in 1950 and a bachelorâ€™s degree in education from Lynchburg College in Virginia in 1952.
Upon graduating from Lynchburg College, Fawcett went to the YMCAâ€™s Blue Ridge Assembly to begin training to become a YMCA director.
â€œI basically learned the history and philosophy of the YMCA and how it spread to the rest of the world,â€ Fawcett said.
Fawcett also trained for work with the YMCA at the George Williams College Camp in Illinois. After receiving certification, Fawcett began his career with the YMCA at the Consolidated Central YMCA in Leaksville-Spray (now known as Eden) in the eastern part of the state.
As Program/Physical Director, Fawcett taught physical education and headed up the YMCAâ€™s sports leagues.
â€œI covered the physical education classes, hobby groups, club groups and leadership training,â€ said Fawcett.
In 1954, Fawcett was forced to detour from his career path with the YMCA when he was drafted into the Army. Fawcett was stationed in Panama until 1956, when he received his discharge.
After leaving the Army, Fawcett was hoping for a smooth transition back to his old job at the YMCA, but Fawcettâ€™s road back to work turned out to be a bumpy one.
â€œI returned to the Y,â€ Fawcett said. â€œBut the building burned down while I was being interviewed.â€
Luckily, Fawcettâ€™s plans to continue working for the YMCA did not go up in smoke. He took a position in Rhode Island as a Youth Work Director. There, Fawcett handled education courses, camping trips and bus trips all over New England.
â€œI worked with the club groups and campers and took them on trips on the YMCA bus,â€ said Fawcett. â€œIâ€™d always worked with kids. I ended up working with the whole family.â€
Fawcett continued to work with YMCA families when he got a promotion and moved from Rhode Island to Massachusetts. There, Fawcett taught many education and leadership courses, as well as headed up seminars. He also remained involved with the YMCAâ€™s sports leagues.
Always on the move, Fawcett left Massachusetts to take a job in Pennsylvania. In 1967, Fawcett was asked to come to DeLand, Fla. to start a new YMCA. With 16 years experience, Fawcett was ready for the challenge.
â€œThe people in town wanted to start a YMCA, and they invited me down for an interview,â€ Fawcett said. â€œThat was the best experience I had because I had to start from scratch. We had a pair of horseshoes and a tug-of-war rope.â€
For the next four years, Fawcett built the West Volusia Family YMCA up from nothing. He was the executive director, the first time he had held that responsibility-laden position. By the time he left, the place was thriving.
â€œThatâ€™s my success story,â€ said Fawcett.
An offer to be the executive director at the Greene County Family YMCA in Tennessee came next and Fawcett decided to take a chance once again. Unfortunately, Fawcettâ€™s experience in Tennessee was not a good one. When he arrived at his new post, the YMCA had no building of its own and was being run out of a funeral home. Internal politics and staff departures made Fawcettâ€™s job very difficult.
â€œThey had me doing everything,â€ Fawcett said. â€œYou learn to do what youâ€™ve got to do. I never learned to say no.â€
Although he survived a rough six months in Tennessee, Fawcett decided to make a career change and retired from the YMCA in 1972. For the next 20 years, Fawcett worked in the newspaper business.
Yet Fawcett never completely severed ties with the YMCA. Even today, at 77, he works out there three times a week.
Recently, Fawcett got the chance to take a walk down memory lane when he went down to Florida to receive a special honor.
â€œThey were celebrating the 40th anniversary of the YMCA,â€ said Fawcett. â€œSince I was the original founder, they took the time to honor me.â€
Things have changed a lot since Fawcett left so many years ago. The DeLand YMCA he founded is now six different YMCAs.
Yet for Fawcett, the memories of the work he did â€“ building a whole YMCA program with nothing but a pair of horseshoes and a tug-of-war rope â€“ have remained the same these past 40 years.
â€œI think about the fact that when they honored me, they honored everyone I touched,â€ Fawcett said. â€œWhen I accepted the recognition, all the memories came running together.â€
Before traveling to Florida to be recognized for his work, Fawcett was thinking about the inherent connection between all YMCAs. This gave him an idea.
â€œI wanted Lincolnton to recognize the 40th anniversary of the Y in Florida,â€ said Fawcett. â€œI said, why donâ€™t we take a plaque as a gift from our Y to theirs. In turn, I asked for a plaque from Florida for the sixth anniversary of the Lincolnton Y.â€
Soon, Fawcett will present the plaque from Florida to the Lincoln County YMCA, a permanent link between the two branches, one that Fawcett created and one in the place he now calls home.
Doubtless, it will be a special moment for Fawcett. The YMCA has, and always will have, a special place in Fawcettâ€™s heart.
â€œI really believe that if they did surgery and opened up my heart, theyâ€™d find the YMCA triangle in there.â€
by Allyson Levine