George Waters, a former Philadelphian and longtime employee at Radio Corporation of America, died Aug. 9 of pneumonia. He was 81.
Waters had been living in Wilton Manors, Fla., for the past several years, but prior to that was a longtime resident of Center City.
He was born Nov. 1, 1927, in Livonia, Mich. After high school, Waters entered the U.S. Navy and was stationed in California, during which time he earned a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from the University of California at Berkeley.
Roy Harker, a lifelong friend, said Waters’ military career was cut short in the 1950s because of his sexuality, which he said went on to shape his future career path.
“He was one of the unfortunate people who was dismissed for being homosexual,” Harker said. “As an engineer, he was supposed to be working on government contracts but, because of the dismissal, he wasn’t able to get the security clearance he needed so that kind of forced him onto a different course.”
Harker moved to Philadelphia and received his master of science degree in electrical engineering from Drexel University and, in 1953, went to work at RCA, where he ultimately spent 35 years in the company’s broadcast division. Waters designed and produced videotape recorders that were used at television stations and was eventually named engineering manager. Waters retired in 1988 after General Electric, which took over RCA in 1986, closed the division.
A year after he was hired by RCA, Waters began a relationship with Philadelphia conductor and organist Earl Ness. The couple remained together for 33 years, until Ness’ death in 1987.
Harker said Waters and Ness had a garden outside their Center City home in which Waters invested a great deal of time and energy.
“He was so proud of that garden. He threw lots of parties there and used to entertain lots of people out in the garden,” he said. “Anybody who knew George Waters knows that garden.”
Harker said Waters also volunteered nearly every day at the William Way LGBT Community Center and participated in local bowling and pool leagues.
“He was always a very high-energy person,” he said, noting that Waters was also a cancer survivor.
Waters is survived by his partner, Frank Restrepo of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; his sister, Janet Hymes, of Michigan; Ness’ son, Craig Ness and his wife, Anne, and their two children of Houston, Texas; and many nieces, nephews and friends.
Waters was cremated and buried alongside Ness at Laurel Hill Cemetery.
Memorial donations can be made in his name to any charity.