JANESVILLE - Camille "Bud" George hosted his last summer picnic Thursday at Mountz Park near his native Houtzdale, but the affair didn't have the feeling of a man about to retire after 38 years as state representative from Pennsylvania's 74th District.
George, D-Houtzdale, never sat down.
He moved easily, graciously, through the crowd of several hundred Republicans and Democrats - some eating sandwiches, potato chips and drinking a soda - his face dotted with perspiration in the hot sun of a mid-August day.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Nearly 1,000 people were expected to attend the last Rep. Camille ‘Bud’ George Day Picnic held Thursday at the Mountz Park in Janesville. Gail Francisko of Philipsburg shares a laugh with George, D-Houtzdale, who is retiring.
George talked about issues, his concerns for the water supply during a time of natural gas drilling and fracking, the jobs he brought to his district, and most of all, his constituents, some having their children and grandchildren pose beside him as they snapped a last picture.
"The constituents have been good to me," he said. "I tell them the truth and they tell me the truth."
As a politician, he said he sometimes has to make a decision about an important issue and the choice to some poses a dilemma: On the one hand, it may be a "big guy" who has $1,000 to contribute and on the other side, it's an average guy concerned his water will be destroyed.
George's constituents knew how he would come down on these issues.
"I'm going to miss him in Clearfield County. ... He's a people's legislator," said John Dugan of DuBois, who has known and worked with George for 30 years.
"He's the last of the honest people. If you had a problem, he'd try to help you. Bud always had a down-to-earth answer." he said.
June Frauchotk of Glen Hope, who explained that she had switched her voter registration from Democrat to Republican, said: "Sometimes I voted for him and sometimes I didn't. I vote for the person."
She even went so far as to say she and George "tangled" at times, but she said, "Nobody can beat Camille. He did everything he could for the people."
She added that she never missed George's picnic.
David Wuldeck, who helped plan this year's picnic, said he grew up in Bud George's neighborhood and it was George who got him interested in politics.
He remembers handing out bags of Middle Eastern pita bread at local factories and businesses as part of George's political campaigns.
"He's an incredible guy," Wuldeck said.
If George had the respect of the voters in his district, he was granted the same by other politicians, like Rep. Scott Conklin, D-State College, who was quietly photographing the event.
George is "one of the last generation whose handshake is his word," Conklin said.
When he first went to Harrisburg, Conklin said George took him under his wing and "made sure I was surrounded by honest people. He's just an amazing individual. There never will be another Bud George."
Paul Wambach of Harrisburg worked for George for 15 years.
Wambach laughed as he watched George greeting people, moving from group to group. George has slowed down over the years - from 100 percent to 98 percent, Wambach said.
"It would be a desolate area if it wasn't for a fighter like Bud," said Wambach, referring to all the jobs George helped bring to the area.
"He always wove himself into the fabric of those who could help Clearfield County," he said.
George was able to work with the House and Senate, no matter which party was in charge.
"Bud speaks his own language. He speaks his own mind," he said.
Bud George may be old-school in many ways. He remembers getting out of the Navy in 1946 - he's the last World War II veteran in the Pennsylvania House - and his dad, who owned a gas station, sold seven gallons of gas for $1.
As he remembers the past, George also has his eye on the future, proud of the ethanol plant he fought to bring to Clearfield, and the many other jobs, like the State Correctional Institution at Houtzdale, the Wal-Mart Distribution Center and the Clearfield campus of Lock Haven State University, he helped bring to the area.
George said he's concerned because the middle-class family has to go into debt to finance a college education and when the child graduates, there are no jobs.
"I'm saddened I won't be out there doing my so-called thing. I hope there are people who feel I did the very best I could," he said.