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GEORGE ON OUR MINDS

Remembering ‘Mr. STA’ and many special moments

Posted January 13, 2022

 

Based on the sentiments of support, condolences and memories that have poured in since George Abbott’s unexpected passing on January 3, you understand how much he was well liked, respected and loved.

 

Anyone who knew him has enjoyed many special moments with George.

 

Those who shared their thoughts about him on this page are spot on in their remembrances of this legend of the textile industry and the Southern Textile Association (STA). I’d like to call out a submission from Past STA President Todd Wemyss of Glen Raven, Inc. that succinctly describes him: “He impacted us all from the moment we met him until the last time we saw him – with exuberance.”

 

Yes, indeed – exuberance. And “exuberance” encompasses passion, an eye full of sparkle and a love of life and living.

 

As many of you, I am blessed to have crossed paths with George Abbott, a.k.a. “Mr. STA.” And I felt like his best friend … but didn’t we all? He made everyone feel that way. Every person, every chat, every activity was special to George, and his disarming charm and gentle disposition somehow pulled you into his worldview and made those simple encounters mean something to you, too. He was in the moment, and he wanted to make sure you shared in that moment.

 

Those special moments.

 

George was our biggest cheerleader – individually, for the textile industry and for the STA. I’m sure many of you have anecdotes or instances that prove this. One example for me was when I shared with him the idea for a digital textile news publication in 2013. With great gusto, he encouraged me to pursue the concept, and even arranged a meeting with me and his leadership at Inman Mills, Rob Chapman and Norm Chapman, to discuss my vision. With positivity and reassurance, he pushed me to help make this dream a reality.

 

And he stood by me every step of the way, and every week since eTC’s launch in March 2014. He often told me he read every word of the weekly newsletter and every word on the website. More than once, he told me how proud he was of me, which meant everything coming from him.

 

He frequently told me “you’re the best word man I know,” which always made me blush, grin and say thank you. I once described him in a news article as a “septuagenarian,” which led him to pick up the phone and ask me, “what is a septua … a septger … a septer … you know, what you called me?” I explained that it was someone in their 70s, and he said a laugh, “that’s why you’re the best word man I know.”

 

He must’ve really believed that because, anytime he had a speech to give over the last dozen years or so, he asked me to help him write it. Oh, and how he hated public speaking, even as outgoing and gregarious as he was one on one. On nights before he was to present at out-of-town STA meetings, he would be fretting and wringing his hands, and would invariably ask me to go over his written remarks with him and tweak them as needed. He labored over words, phrases and passages and wanted everything polished before he presented. And from the podium, he always knocked it out of the park.

 

What special moments.

 

Most recently, he called me in December and told me he had a Christmas card for a recent widow of a good friend. “I know what I want to say but I don’t know how to say it,” he told me. “Will you help me write an appropriate message?” I did, of course – which would be the last time I spoke with him.

 

I will cherish that special moment in particular.

 

And ol’ George had a child’s wonder for the world – and even things out of this world. When he heard a total solar eclipse was coming “straight over South Carolina” in 2017, he invited me to watch it with him. I was honored to be able to share such a galactic event with him, of course. When the day turned dark and the hot summer temperature dropped for a few minutes, it became almost spiritual for George and me to witness such a celestial phenomenon. (I could’ve sworn I saw his eyes welling up when that happened, but perhaps it was too dark to tell through the solar viewing shades and the dimmed blackness of “nighttime.”)

 

A special moment, for sure – one that will never be, well, eclipsed.

 

George also was a smart man, and curious. He asked questions, even at times when he probably knew the answer. But he liked to downplay his aptitude or problem-solving skills by somehow making people feel like they were the one who came up with a certain idea, a decision or a resolution to an issue. That’s what a good friend – and leader – does. This practice played out frequently at STA Board of Governors’ meetings, and I’m sure in other scenarios, too.

 

Prior to the Techtextil North America in Raleigh last August, STA leadership had asked George if he would man the association’s booth at the trade show. When I spoke with him after he was asked, he was super giddy and excited to have been asked. He was looking forward to seeing many of his old friends and meeting new ones, especially after having retired from Inman Mills in 2018 and not seeing many industry buddies since the pandemic started. Although STA pulled out of the show about a week before the event due to the Delta variant rising, George, though disappointed, said, “Well, we’ll just be ready for the Atlanta show next year.” Which perfectly summed up his positivity and forward-looking approach to EVERYTHING.

 

Speaking of his optimism, George always told me he aimed to live to be “at least” 107 – long enough to see the trees he had had planted on his North Carolina property mature and be harvested. In pursuit of his mission, he was something of a health nut, juicing fruits and veggies for many meals and rarely eating red meat, if any meat at all. It’s sad he didn’t live to see those trees chopped down, but that dogged determination to live certainly gave him a good reason to strive for the gift of longevity.

 

Special moments, all.

 

Many will remember George as someone full of fervor, zeal and adventure – and the fact that he was always “terrific!” That’s how he always answered when he was asked how he was doing. And it became a “thing” for many of us who knew him. We often would ask him that question just to see if, by chance, he would deviate from that response. He never did.

 

I would like to ask all of you who knew him – all of you who share the “George’s best friend” title with me – to carry on his legacy of positivity by answering “terrific” whenever you’re asked “how ya doing?” That would be a fantastic – I mean, “terrific!” – way to build on the glass-half-full, inspiring heritage he left the textile industry and the world.

 

And always remember those special moments with George.

Abbott tributes

I was deeply saddened to hear of George Abbott’s passing. George was such an inspiration to me over the years. I called George many times for advice on textiles but also just to talk. I had just spoke with George on the phone a couple months ago and he sounded so upbeat about things. We have lost a true icon in the industry who will never be forgotten. Rest in peace, my friend.

 

Russell Mims

Buhler Quality Yarns (ret.)

and

Past STA president

___________________________

Losing a legend is never easy. George had a way of making you feel like you were the most important person in the room while you were talking to him. I’ll miss him, his smile, enthusiasm for the industry and love of the STA. So many fond memories … rest in peace, old friend.

 

Sam Buff

VP & GM

Manufacturing & Textile Innovation Network

and

STA Board member

___________________________

We are very sad to hear of George’s passing. George was always so happy to see everyone at the STA meetings. He will be greatly missed. RIP, George.

 

Vincenzo Mazzoleni

Director of Sales & Service

Marzoli

and

STA Board member

___________________________

 

Thanks to George for who he was and what he gave us. May we all strive to be a positive influence to all we encounter.

 

Thomas Poston

Senior key account executive

Daikin America, Inc.

and

STA Board member

___________________________

 

I’m devastated. (My wife) Lisa and I are sitting here remembering all the interactions with George at STA. He made us all feel like he was happy to see us and couldn’t wait until next time. He was a gem to us all.  

 

Mike Strader

Coats

and

STA Board member

___________________________

 

Simply heartbreaking. Mr. Abbott was one of the nicest men I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. Kind, gentle, wise and always “terrific!”

 

Vance Tiller

Impact Workforce Solutions

and

STA Board member

___________________________

 

George was one of the most energetic people I have known. There’s no question he truly loved the STA. He’s responsible for a huge percentage of the members, including me. RIP, George. 

 

Tim Manson

Meridian Specialty Yarn Group, Inc.

and

STA Board member

___________________________

 

Sad day for STA and the entire textile industry. Prayers are with the Abbott family. 

 

Randy H. Smith

Mount Vernon Chemicals

and

STA Board member

___________________________

 

Even though I am saddened by his passing, I could not help but smile as I thought of him. I, like most, was recruited by George. He was a customer of ours. He pretty much said, “you need to be a part of STA and I expect you to join.” So I did. Great man.

 

Marvin Smith

Shuford Yarns

and

STA Board member

___________________________

 

I am in shock, and not able to say much … but thank you, George! You were Mr. STA for me. You were a gentleman’s gentleman … and treated everyone with love and respect. This organization lost part of its heart tonight, but we will go on, as you would have wished. Much love, prayers, and strength to the entire Abbot family…

 

Mike Kingsmore

Hitec Chemicals

and

Past STA president

___________________________

 

George was an STA Icon. He impacted us all from the moment we met him until the last time we saw him – with exuberance. He will be missed personally, professionally and within our culture.

 

Todd Wemyss

Glen Raven, Inc.

and

Past STA president

___________________________

 

When I started my position at the NC Textile Foundation in 2016, I was fortunate to meet George at an STA meeting. Like many of you, George made me feel welcome with open arms into the textile industry. He was a benevolent alumnus of his Wilson College of Textiles each year, and encouraged me often. Frankly he was the one who encouraged me to serve alongside some of the best in this industry on the STA board. He understood the value of textile education and the synergy between our college and helping to meet the needs of the industry while also seeing the need and value for the textile industry to in invest in textile education.

 

I was saddened to hear of his passing. I received a call from George just before the end of the year regarding his annual end-of-year giving. I could not believe this news and I know I will try to be more intentional through my work and engagement in such a way to honor his legacy and work.

 

It sure has been such a tough year losing so many wonderful people connected to STA and the industry.

 

Michael Ward

NC Textile Foundation

and

STA Board member

___________________________

 

I am still at a loss for works, and the news is truly heartbreaking. George was a gentleman among gentlemen. I will miss him dearly and I know all that met him will feel the same. His spirit will be missed. Like so many others, he is the reason I am a member of STA and I thank him each day for that advice and encouragement.

Our prayers are being offered to his family.

 

Palmer Blair

Dillon Yarn Co.

and

STA Board member

___________________________

 

I had the great pleasure of working for and with George Abbott for 25 years at Inman Mills’ Saybrook Plant. I can’t tell you what a truly awesome inspiration that man was. He taught me that I can do anything I set my mind to, that I wasn’t just some girl, that I knew what I was talking about when it came to the operation and maintenance of the spinning room! He taught me to have confidence in myself, not as a female, but as a worker! He and Rob (Chapman) gave me chances no other company would and for that … I ALWAYS’s gave them 150%! They were a very special breed of person we could all take a lesson from!

Deana Foster

Inman Mills

'I'm terrific, man'

Video courtesy of Cameron Hamrick

Abbott tributes

Tremendous Heart

Excellent Character

Relentless Motivator

Refreshing Sprit

Intelligent

Fantastic Personality

Immense Love for Family & Friends

Charismatic

 

"Mr. Terrific," "Mr. STA" describe George Abbott the best. George was my mentor and biggest supporter. I met George in 1995 at my first Southern Textile Association (STA) Annual Meeting after taking over the management of STA. He played a huge role in growing the association to where it is today.

 

If there was an STA meeting, George was there, motivating everyone to go get a new member. He had a way of making you feel like you were the most important person in the room. Any time I needed a pick-me-up, I could call George. I'm going to miss his phone calls that always started, "This is George, you got a minute?" and included the phrase “I’m TERRIFIC!” when he was asked. I always had a minute for George Abbott! 

 

One thing I will always remember about George was that he always ate his dessert first, saying, “I don’t know why people save the best ‘til last!” That was just one of many things that made George one of a kind.

 

There is a big hole in my heart that will always be there. RIP, my dear friend!

 

Lillian Link

STA secretary/treasurer

___________________________

 

In 2006 being a relatively new member of STA, I received a phone call from George Abbott. At that time, I did not know George very well. He asked me to serve on a committee that's task was to take a hard look at the Southern Textile Association's path for the future. Our membership had fallen to an all-time low, and the industry was struggling.

 

Of course, George asked with his ever-present excitement and optimism, so how could I say no? At every STA meeting for years after that George would thank me for taking on this challenge and always encouraged me to work towards leadership in STA. I sit here today honored to be serving as the president of STA. I am very proud that I was part of the group that created the George Abbott Membership Award and am proud to say I have been able to earn this coveted award for membership recruitment.

 

My most honored moment in STA was presenting George the inaugural George Abbott Membership Award at our annual meeting in Hilton Head Island in 2019. We surprised him, and I believe it was the only time we really "got" George! We all have a lot of fun stories about our times with George (the cigar story for me) and I know we will share these many times at future gatherings. I will miss those random calls of encouragement and those big hugs every time we got together. He will live on through all he touched, as I am sure we will say many times in meetings, "What would George do?" Godspeed, my dear friend.

 

Rick Carpenter

Sales Manager

Conitex Sonoco

and

STA president

___________________________

 

I have been associated with STA for 30 years, and in my mind George Abbott is the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) when it comes to STA members. He recruited others with passion and helped initiate positive change over the years. He will be greatly missed. However, his spirit will live on.

 

Whenever someone answers “terrific” or “fantastic” when asked how they are doing, we will remember George’s positive outlook on life. Whenever we present the George Abbott Membership Award at each annual meeting, we will remember his love for the STA and how he truly considered all members to be part of his family. Rest in peace, George. Though you will not be with us in person any longer, your spirit will guide us as we move forward.

 

Jim Booterbaugh

National Spinning Co.

and

Past STA president

___________________________

 

I first met George at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich during the ITMA show in 2007. Little did I know he would lead me from TYAA (now SYFA) to STA and then to a board member. He would always say, "Remember where we first met." He also told me one time that when he gets to work, he hopes something went "a little" wrong the previous day so he would have a challenge to see what happened. I knew then and told him he worked because he wanted and love to work – while I worked because I had to work.


We will miss him tremendously, but we must carry on, as that is what he would have wanted. He will always be with us. 
 

Charles Poston 
Global Industry Team-Textile 
Klüber Lubrication 
and

STA officer

___________________________

 

My heart aches for the Abbott family, as I know all too well the shock of such a sudden loss. It’s hard to comprehend, much less accept.  I find comfort thinking that George and Dad (Tommy Ariail, past STA president) are discussing card wire and spinning frame front roll speeds while reminiscing about the decades spent in the textile industry. He left such an incredible example for those left behind. We will remember a quick smile and firm handshake while the legacy of a lifetime of selfless devotion to the STA family will continue to inspire us.

 

Lisa Oehmig

Glen Raven, Inc.

and

Past STA president

___________________________

 

As Cameron (Hamrick) and I reminisced about our relationship with George Abbott, we felt very strongly about wanting to share a tribute to George. We both shared the same disappointment that my father and Cameron’s grandfather, Wylie Hamrick, could not also collaborate with us on that tribute. George Abbott was an industry colleague of three generations of Hamrick mill men and respected by each one of us. Cameron’s admiration for George Abbott was rooted in the fact that George was the most genuine textile enthusiast of his time. This manifested itself in the way his positive we-can-do attitude led people and solved problems. George recognized that the people of Inman Mills were the greatest resource and benefit in Inman’s ability to be successful.

 

My thoughts about George Abbott go back to the days of The Institute of Textile Technology and the biannual Technical Advisory Committee meetings he and I attended in Charlottesville, Va. George and I often found ourselves sitting in the same technical workshops offered during those TACs, and I soon realized George was a forward thinker and had an inquisitive mind for textile processes and products. He was always willing to share with you what he knew when you would ask him a question. If you asked him for help or advice, he always did what he could to comply with your request.

 

An enduring impression I have of George Abbott is of his support, admiration and faithfulness to my friend Rob Chapman. Rob led Inman Mills through some difficult circumstances and realized that business as usual had a dim future. Rob sought a new vision for Inman’s success, and George was the perfect manufacturing teammate for Rob and Inman’s other team members to guide Inman Mills into our industry’s challenging future.

           

Lyman Hamrick

Hamrick Mills

and

Past STA chairman

in collaboration with

Cameron Hamrick

Hamrick Mills

and

STA Board member

___________________________

 

I was overwhelmed when I got the call about George Abbott’s passing. I talked with his son David and expressed my prayers for peace and comfort for he and his entire family. We talked in reflection about Big George and the powerful impact that George had on pretty much anyone who engaged him.
 

I was so blessed to have had the opportunity to work alongside one of the most engaging and confident leaders that I have ever encountered. His “outside the box” approach to problem solving and the insatiable desire to tackle any problem no matter how big or how small by getting people together and combining our interactions into a plan of attack was so very successful. But his ability to light up the room and raise the level of fun for all was unsurpassed.

  
George recognized talent but he also recognized the need when evaluating and encouraging those with whom he worked. He gave me more opportunities to expand my talents and use my giftedness not only with Inman Mills and STA, but with the SCMA (South Carolina Manufacturers Alliance) and municipal government. He believed that “fully engaged” built success at every level. He took care of those of us who worked with him and his legacy of “TERRIFIC” was a life skill he shared with everyone.


I have a great cache of memories and stories about George, but mostly he was the epitome of the word “gentleman.” He is already greatly missed.

Brad Burnette

Inman Mills (ret.)

and

Past STA president

___________________________

This has been a shock for us all. There have been many wonderful memories of George and I am sure he would have been humbled by everyone’s kind words.

 

George embodied the selfless leadership that was typical not only of STA, but of our industry.   

I remember, as many of you have, the “call” from George and my recruitment into STA. I thought I was so special for someone like George to make a special call and effort to get me to join. Later, I realized there were around 500 people who felt that same special connection with George as our conduit to STA. 

 

George realized the importance of strong relationships and the professional development of our membership. As our industry was reduced, he recognized the necessity of our bond in STA. 

 

Janet and I have looked forward to seeing everyone at the annual meetings, but most of all to spend wonderful times with our friends Preston (Aldridge, who died in September) and George. Tonight, we are missing our friend. Our best wishes to his family. We have lost a great one!

 

Carson Copeland

Valdese Weavers (ret.)

and

Past STA President

___________________________

 

I was shocked and saddened to learn of George’s passing. He was a trusted friend and an inspiration to all who crossed his path. His infectious enthusiasm and hard work ethic gave hope to those around him that even the impossible was doable … ”with just a little more work.” His legacy in leading STA and his impact on the entire textile industry will continue to live on. Our lives are forever enriched, and our world is a better place because George Abbott came our way.

 

Steve Dobbins

Carolina Mills

and

Former STA president

___________________________

 

I considered George a valued friend and mentor for always staying positive. He was the first one I talked with about retiring and, typical of George, he gave me good advice, as always. Even though I have been officially retired for almost 12 years, I kept up with George and just last spring met him for a round of golf and then supper as I was visiting my sister in Florida who lived within a two-hour drive. I will now truly treasure that day as one of my fondest memories of George. My wife, June, and George were both from Oxford N.C., and was one of her favorites also. We both mourn his passing but will remember his legacy forever.

 

Bill Gray

Murata Machinery USA (ret.)

___________________________

 

George was one of the most relentlessly positive gentlemen I have ever known.

 

Jay White

Morrison Textile Machinery

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