George B. Highfill passed away peacefully on April 2, 2019 in Overland Park, Kansas with his dear lovely wife of 69 years, Clara Mae at his side. He was born on a farm near Potter, Kansas on April 28, 1925, the son of Ben and Mary Cleavinger Highfill. He tragically lost his younger brother Joe in 1928 and his mother in 1929. Young George was raised and cared for by two older sisters, Hattie and Betty who were only 7 and 9 at the time of their mother’s death. George graduated in the Class of 1942 from Potter High School and in the fall of 1942 entered Kansas State Teachers College in Pittsburg, Kansas. Navy recruiters arrived on campus in the Fall of 42 seeking students to enter a Naval Officers Training Program to serve in WWII. On July 1, 1943, he qualified for the Navy V-12 Program and was transferred to Midshipmen’s School at Northwestern University in Chicago.
George Highfill received a Commission from the Navy at age 19, on Nov. 22, 1944 became one of the youngest officers in the history of the U.S. Navy. He was assigned immediately as Ensign on LCI 361 and participated in the liberation of the Philippines. He was discharged from the Navy in June 1946 and returned to Pittsburg and graduated with a degree in Mathematics, the Class of 1947. In the Fall of 47 he began his career in education as a Math teacher in Garnett, Kansas. In the Fall of 48, a young, gorgeous blond girl from Oklahoma A & M University began her teaching career in Garnett as a Home Economics teacher. A budding romance blossomed and on Christmas Eve 1949, they were married.
In 1950 they moved to Meade, Kansas where George taught Math and in 1953 became high school principal after receiving a Masters Degree in Educational Administration from Kansas State Teachers College in Emporia, Kansas. He continued to teach math and was an administrator at Kismet, Pretty Prairie, and St. John, Kansas. He retired in 1988 after serving 23 years as superintendent of St. John USD 350. He and his Clara Mae moved to Lawrence, Kansas in 1995 and lived there for several years attending events at the University of Kansas and taking classes. They both never lost their zeal for learning.
George Highfill was a tireless volunteer and contributor to his community. He was very highly respected and admired in every community in which he lived. He was on the board of the United Methodist Church in St. John, worked on the Western Kansas Economic Development board, and was a long-time member of the Lions Club. He was a key contributor in establishing the Lions Club basketball tournament in St. John which has been the premier winter invitational basketball tournament in Western Kansas for over 50 years.
Besides being preceded in death by his parents and brother Joe, also preceded by a brother, Lyle Highfill and a sister, Hattie Thompson. He is survived by his older sister, Betty of Bushnell, Illinois and a sister Martha of Leavenworth, Kansas. He is survived by his four children, Juli of Ann Arbor, Michigan, Scott of San Diego, California, Philip of Kansas City, Missouri, and Jay and wife Amy of Overland Park, Kansas. He is survived by 8 grandchildren, Scott’s three sons and girls, Cameron of Healdsburg, California, Chad and Cade of San Diego, and two adopted twins, Sydney and Shelby of Wilmington, North Carolina, Philip’s son Dan of Philadelphia, Ohio, Jay and Amy’s daughter Megan of Panama City, Panama, and their son Tavis of Overland Park, Kansas.
In lieu of flowers, please send memorials to the Haskell Indian Nations University Endowment Fund, 155 Indian Ave, Box 5019, Lawrence, Kansas. A Celebration of Life will be held at Johnson County Funeral Chapel, 11200 Metcalf Ave, Overland Park, Kansas, at 3:30 p.m on Saturday, July 20. A memorial service will be held at 3:30 PM, on Saturday, July 20, followed by a reception at Matt Ross Community Center from 5-8 PM, 8101 Marty St, Overland Park, KS 66204.
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