Obituary of George Van Buren
George Van Buren, born 18 July 1928, died 18 September 2015 in Grass Valley, California, after a long illness. Born in Little Falls, New York, Van Buren is the last male in the line descending from the brother of our 19th Century
President. A member of MENSA, Van Buren was a talented an innovative engineer in television, Broadway, and concert hall illumination and acoustical design. He held patents in this field. He was responsible for building control systems for motorized scenery for many of David Merrick’s Broadway shows, such as Oliver, 110 in The Shade, and others. He toured the nation with many other shows such as Silk Stockings, Flower Drum Song, Music Man, and Pickwick.
As Production Electrician for Disney on Parade, George designed and built the “flying rig,” that elevated stage show characters, such as Mary Poppins, all controlled from telemetering information sent from a primitive computer. For these and many other innovating stage and lighting devices, in 1994 Van Buren was given the Wally Award for development of entertainment technology, presented by Theatre Crafts International.
Van Buren became an experienced aviator and with his wife travelled extensively across the nation in their personal aircraft. He became a computer expert such that he shared interests with Steve Jobs. During the 1970s George helped to design and install the first Global Positioning System at the North Pole, though ultimately he realized that his heart was in theater. As chief electrician for the San Francisco Symphony, Van Buren designed and oversaw the construction of the Davies Hall “cloud” of convex acoustical clear acrylic tiles. The array of 50 panels is positioned by a preprogrammed system to focus sound from a particular configuration of the orchestra. He received a number of proclamations for his efforts, from the Office of the Mayor, the Board of Trustees of the San Francisco War Memorial Department, and the San Francisco Symphony. He retired from Symphony Hall in 1991, moving to Grass Valley, but maintained his association with the IATSELocal 16 Union in San Francisco until his passing. During “retirement” in Grass Valley Van Buren initiated and redesigned a local theater, now known as the Center for the Arts. This new center attracts major artists and musicians from across the nation. The termination of his rich life leaves a void in the extensive legion of professionals he influenced over many decades of unending activity. He leaves his wife of 31 years, noted Balanchine and New York City Ballet Company-trained ballerina and classical ballet instructor, Myrna Galle, two daughters, stepson and family, six grandchildren, and seven great grandchildren.
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