of Ann Arbor, MI, formerly of Dexter, age 89, died Wednesday, December 22, 2021 at his home in Ann Arbor. He was born July 20, 1932 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the son of Manley Ward and Ida B. (Helwich) Kilbreath.

As a child, his family were members at Zion Lutheran. In later life he was not a regular church goer, but maintained a generous spirit of Christian faith as a source of optimism in his life. George was a fireman for the City of Ann Arbor, later becoming a truck driver and excavator for many years. A born mechanic, he removed the door to his mother’s ice box with a screwdriver at age 3 or 4. She was so impressed with his doing this on the day she was hosting a church luncheon that it likely earned him a good spanking. He was a talented and capable individual, whose sense of time kept many of us waiting for extended periods. His humorous and generous nature earned forgiveness from most.

As a family, we enjoyed years of cooking together for every Chinese New Year and Cinco de Mayo. George and Mickey shared a love of gardening and feeding the birds, squirrels and even raccoons. As part of Ann Arbor Farm and Garden, Mickey took us on annual Garden Walk Fundraisers. They greatly enjoyed trips to Pennsylvania and Ohio to spend time with her sons, Mike and John, and their wives. When Mickey’s daughter was married she honored George by asking him to walk her down the aisle. His grandson delighted him by showing the same talents and skill with his hands he himself had. He was amused and enlightened by his granddaughter. He respected and admired his son-in-law.

Music was a passion. In the late 60's, he formed The Country Line Boys with Dan Lindner, Ralph Paige & Ann Arbor fiddler, Dick Dieterle. The group played at various venues, including Mr. Flood’s Party, The Pretzel Bell, and Oberlin College. With time, the group members were swept away into separate arenas. At his 80th birthday party, George got out his guitar, playing and singing as he did from time to time. An influential friend encouraged him to being performing again, and George enjoyed a music renaissance that filled his life with joy until Covid set us on another path. He was invited to join the RFD Boys on stage at The Ark, something that gave George some of the best nights of his life. He couldn’t believe he was playing on the same stage as the musicians in the photos lining the halls. He play cajun music on Mondays and formed the Huron River Ramblers with John Riser, Gary Koppin, and others. In 2019, he was inducted into the Southeast Michigan Bluegrass Association Hall of Honor and recorded a love song for Mickey.

George was a steadfast friend and beloved by his family and will be missed by many. George is survived by Mickey (Mary) Barley, with whom he enjoyed the last 30 years of his life. He is survived also by a daughter, Loralee Kilbreath (Gary Glover); grandchildren, Matthew Glover and Rebecca Glover; his niece and nephews, Kathy Bacon, and Douglas and Dale Hodge. He is also remembered by Mickey’s children as he came to be thought of as a father: Michael Barley (Michele), John Barley (Chris), Mark Barley, and Lisa Barley (Daniel Koster).

A memorial service will be held at a later date (updates will be posted here). A private burial was held at Bethlehem Cemetery in Ann Arbor. Memorial contributions may be made to Arbor Hospice, 2366 Oak Valley Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48103 or The Ark, 316 S Main St. Ann Arbor, MI 48104.

Click here to watch the video of George's graveside service

You may share a memory or leave a message for George's family using the form below.  Please allow up to 24 hours for us to review and post your comments. 


#8 Tom Sorensen 2021-12-26 10:21
It was a pleasure and privilege to play on Monday nights with George whether it was Cajun or old time country.
#7 Dan Lindner 2021-12-25 20:13
Thank you Gary. That was a beautiful service for a beautiful man. Simple, honest, right to the point. Just like George would have wanted. Just like the way he approached his life and his music. George was an important friend to me; I'll never forget that guy.
#6 Ray Mitchell 2021-12-25 13:43
My wife was ill from 2015-2019. During that time George made a CD and it was called “Gifts of Love”. I played it for her almost every morning at home when she was I’ll. I also played it at her funeral when she passed in 2019. I will always remember him from that song.
#5 Linda Gamnes 2021-12-24 12:01
Three cheers to the man who got us to Argo Park every Monday night in warm weather for a serenade over our picnic supper. The party was made real when George showed up—never the first one.
#4 Lee Reichenberger 2021-12-24 11:42
I worked on a construction site Park Place strip mall with George many years ago, and enjoyed his humor and easy going manner. Rest in Peace friend.
#3 Frank Weir 2021-12-24 10:25
Great times playing music in his final years with George. May laughs too. I'll miss you my friend.
#2 Doris Wunderlich 2021-12-23 14:31
George was such a wonderful neighbor to me and my husband Craig. He always had a funny story or joke to tell (many times self deprecating). He was generous. One winter when we lost power, he hooked us up with a long cord and a heater. We will miss him terribly.
#1 Karla Dawson Morton 2021-12-23 13:56
As a friend of Loralee all during my school years, i visited at their home often. George called me KD and I called him GK. I sure loved that man like a 2nd father to me. He was a special wonderful man in my life. i have nothing but fond memories of time spent together. He will always be a very warm memory for me. Bless your caring heart GK. You will be missed.

Add comment

Security code