May 18, 1922 - January 3, 2021 On January 3, 2021 the patriarch of the Kovach family and founder of the Anacortes Senior College, Eugene "George" Kovach, age 98, died peacefully at Chandler's Square in Anacortes with family at his side. George was dedicated to his country, his community, science, and his ever-growing family. To each he devoted his mighty intellect and energy, as well as his many talents. Born in Irvington, NJ on May 18, 1922, his family moved to Detroit six months later and George always considered himself a native Michigander. He received his BS and MS degrees in Chemistry from Wayne University (and ultimately was awarded their Distinguished Alumnus award in 1961). When his country called in 1943, he joined the Navy and was assigned to the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC where he worked on creating false targets designed to combat acoustic torpedoes, developing oxygen generators (still used today in rebreather equipment) and occasionally blowing the roof off his laboratory when an experiment went awry. Following the war George returned to his studies, earning a PhD in Organic Chemistry from Harvard University in 1949. While he was there, as he described it, he was lucky enough to spot Mary Eleanor Frenning on an enchanted evening across a crowded room, and smart enough to marry her in 1950. He taught and did research at Colgate, the University of Florida , and Georgetown University. George had retained his commission in the Naval Reserve, and in 1954 was assigned to Commander Naval Forces Germany where his small Navy Unit (consisting of other scientists) were tasked to "investigate and assess research activity" in Europe and the Soviet Union. George, Mary Eleanor and their two children lived in Frankfurt, Germany for three years. He then returned to the US and civilian life, but not to universities. He became a Foreign Service Officer when he was invited to join the State Department to advise on issues embodying both foreign relations and scientific interests. In 1970 the Department seconded George to NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium as Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Scientific Affairs. This gave him a wonderful opportunity to work closely with scientists of many countries and in many disciplines and happily herd his family, now his wife and five children, on grand adventures throughout Europe. George returned to Washington in 1976, and six years later retired from State as Director of the Office of Advanced Technology. He continued with frequent temporary missions for the Department until the early 90s when, having already retired from the Navy Reserves with the rank of Captain, he retired fully. But not really. After several visits to family, George and Mary Eleanor left the east coast and moved permanently to Anacortes, WA in 2005, where he again went to work. A staunch believer of lifelong learning, he harnessed the rich opportunity of resources, the energy of engaged residents and talented educators, and the responsiveness of civic leaders to form the Anacortes Senior College. After his wife's passing in 2008, he volunteered for Meals on Wheels and was grateful to find opportunities to deepen his ties to and understanding of the area by participating in various groups. He made friends and enjoyed classes at the College and the Senior Activity Center, in particular the weekly Miracle of Art sessions held there, at Tippler's dinner outings, and through the fellowship at Sacred Heart Church in La Conner, while freely sharing his unbounded enthusiasm for all things Anacortes. He was delighted to share the town and other events of his life in the last ten years with his very dear friend, Enid Austin. George will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery later this year, and a memorial service will also be delayed until it is safe to gather. His family suggests those interested in honoring George consider enrolling in an Anacortes Senior College class when it reopens post-Covid. He is survived by his sons George E. Kovach and wife Teresa of Vienna VA; Peter Kovach and wife Brenda of Anacortes, WA; daughters Mary Edith Kovach-Heise and husband Joseph of Campton, NH; Katherine Cochran of Bethesda, MD; Christine Kovach of Washington DC; seven grandchildren and three of their spouses; six great-grandchildren; and Enid Austin of London, England, whose friendship spanned both decades and continents, and whose companionship provided him much happiness and comfort in his later years. To share memories of Eugene, please sign the online guestbook at www.evanschapel.com.
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