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.
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