Serendipity, karma, fate, chance, providence, luck — whatever you want to call it — George had it.

Serendipity, karma, fate, chance, providence, luck — whatever you want to call it — George had it.

Is timing everything? Well, if it’s not everything, it’s pretty close to being everything. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a better example of being at the right place at the right time than what happened to George.

George is married to Becky. He’s a Marine Vietnam veteran who kept a Chu Lai 1967 coffee cup on his desk at work. He’s a Morehead City resident and a retired Cherry Point civil servant who worked on aircraft simulators for 30-plus years before retiring last October with almost 40 years of federal employment. He repaired TVs at Sears before joining the federal service.

He had a heart attack a couple of years ago and has religiously been going to heart rehab and physical therapy every week since his “missed appointment with death” a few years ago.

Now you know about as much about George as most everyone. He’s a quiet, unassuming kind of man, and a man who doesn’t claim — or even particularly like — the limelight.

But his story deserves telling — limelight wanted or not — as told by his wife to a former coworker.

George was at his normal cardiac rehabilitation session at Carteret General Hospital in Morehead City. He was on the treadmill hooked up to the heart monitor and complained to the nurse that he didn’t feel well all of a sudden. Five seconds later, he collapsed in a heap on the floor. Thirty seconds later his cardiologist rushed in. He was paddled twice before being revived.

Back before this, his second missed appointment with death and when he was still working, one of George’s responsibilities was managing the contract that maintains the CH-46E “Sea Knight” simulator. This training device is used by the pilots assigned to Marine Transport Squadron 1 at Cherry Point that flies the search and rescue helicopter affectionately known as Pedro. The simulator helps Pedro pilots maintain their qualifications and skills.

From a technical perspective, the simulator, like the Pedro aircraft it represents, is old. Technology has passed it by. As the CH-46 aircraft prepares to fly off into the proverbial sunset, one active CH-46 simulator exists in the Marine Corps: the one for which George was responsible at Cherry Point.

The original 1990s procurement price for the CH-46 simulator was about $41 million. Still, unlike George, the simulator had seen little rehab for years. It didn’t make sense to rehab a dying device, to put good money after bad.

A human though, is another story. A price can’t be put on life. George’s life is priceless. So George devotedly went to rehab every week, strengthening his heart, and as a result, he ultimately happened to be at the right place at the right time.

After being defibrillated and stabilized, George’s doctor ordered his immediate transport to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville. How was he transported? In Pedro, of course, by the same Marines whose skills George helped to maintain in that old simulator of which he was in charge.

George had open heart surgery last week. He has a new aortic valve now, but he’s on the road to recovery. Becky says he’s “a tough old bird.” His wife would know. But in yet another twist of fate, George also helped to sustain a “tough old bird” in the CH-46 simulator and likewise the pilots that flew him to Vidant in Pedro, one more tough old bird.

If George had been anywhere else than on that treadmill at Carteret General Hospital that day, he most likely would not be with us today. Destiny, divine intervention, good fortune, coincidence, will of God — whatever it was that had George in heart rehab at the hospital on that particular day at that exact time is one of life’s greatest mysteries.

And for those who know and love George, also one of life’s great joys.

Barry Fetzer is a columnist for the Havelock News. He can be reached at