George Kahler never knew his parents well. His mother passed away from bone cancer when he was just 2 years old, and his father died of a heart attack three years later. George was the youngest of five children.
His brother, Ray, was closest in age and only nine years old when their father passed away, but their older siblings – Trudy, Ed and Dave – were all older than 21 and out of the house.
After losing their father, George’s older siblings took care of the two younger boys until they could find another arrangement. Less than a year later, George’s older siblings decided to put him and his brother into the Masonic Children’s Home, so they could remain together and receive the care they needed.
George didn’t find the change very difficult as a 6-year-old, but he didn’t know anyone other than his brother, and he needed to get used to living in a new place. George roomed with three other boys, who he said helped him adjust to his new home, and he had coaches, teachers, friends’ parents and house parents who acted as parental figures. Outside of “the home,” George and Ray’s oldest brother, Dave, took on the role of the father figure in their lives.
Growing up in the children’s home, George said he had a lot of new experiences and trips with the other children who lived there. He remembers trips to the shore, baseball games and amusement parks. His house parents took all the boys camping in the summer and to an indoor pool in the winter.
Some of George’s best memories from the children’s home, though, are of simply “hanging out” with all the other children. George said they would build forts, roller skate, go sledding, swim and just talk.
In addition to allowing him to live out his childhood, George said the children’s home gave him many other opportunities.
“We had responsibilities like cleaning our rooms and a daily detail, but we also learned to take care of ourselves: making pizza, shopping for clothing, earning our allowance and doing our laundry,” George said.
George said the children’s home also taught him to be considerate of others, due to always having someone else around.
“There were many different people – house parents and other children – who all had to learn to live with each other,” George said. “We had to get along with everyone, even when we didn’t want to, because we were never alone.”
Since then, George went back to school for his elementary teaching certification and has been teaching at the Mifflinburg Middle School for the last 24 years. Now, George is the president of the Masonic Homes Patton School Alumni Association and serves on the scholarship committee to help children graduating from the children’s home and alumni receive the money they need to get a good education.
George said he is not sure of his future plans as of yet, but will continue to teach for the time being, as he believes in the value of education. This year, the alumni association provided $11,000 in scholarships to deserving youth who, like him, are taking a unique path to success. In total, the association has awarded 208 scholarships, totaling more than $200,000 in support to those who will be responsible for America’s future.