1929-2021: George Dorion was a Jacksonville philanthropist and a member of the Bacardi family and chemist
“He grabbed my arm, looked me in the eye, gave me a small smile and he was gone,” said his wife Dottie.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla – George H. Dorion, a professional chemist with the Bacardi Spirits Company, founded by his great-grandfather and a philanthropist who supported a variety of causes and helped found the River Run, died two days before his death on Wednesday Jacksonville house 92nd birthday.
According to his 63-year-old wife, Dorothy “Dottie” Dorion, a former hospice nurse, he had prostate cancer that had metastasized. Despite his illness, he stood up until about a week before he died.
“He grabbed my arm, looked me in the eye, gave me a small smile and he was gone,” she said. “We had wonderful times … I couldn’t have found a better partner.”
Dorion proudly stated that her husband was a positive environmental force through his research with the Air Force and later Bacardi Limited.
He joined the family business in 1969 and worked as a chemist at the company’s Puerto Rico and Jacksonville locations. In 1995 he retired. He held eight patents, published three books, presented at least 23 professional bulletins and reports, and was an “internationally respected” research director, “according to his obituary.
“For more than 25 years, he has been developing the business by helping us lead the way in environmental stewardship and helping us develop new products that keep pace with current trends,” said Facundo L. Bacardi, Chairman of Bacardi Limited. “His positive attitude, entrepreneurial spirit, and relentless pursuit of the betterment of business and society will forever be an inspiration to those who have had the privilege of knowing him.”
Education, work, meeting with Dottie
Mr. Dorion was born in New York City in 1929 to William Jules Dorion and Adelaida Bacardi Dorion. He received a master’s degree in chemistry from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts in 1951 and joined the Air Force in 1953. He worked in the Aeronautical Research Lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio until 1955, where he was a senior research chemist. He later received a PhD in chemistry from Yale University.
After working for Bacardi in Puerto Rico, he moved to Jacksonville where he helped set up a research and development laboratory to test new products and flavors. In 2017 the local location was renamed the George and Dottie Dorion Product Development Center in honor of their 60th wedding anniversary.
Mr. Dorion met the former Dorothy Simpson in 1956 when he was doing his PhD at Yale. She was a student at Columbia University’s Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing. They married in 1957, and his laid-back tendencies merged with what friends called their limitless energy, according to a 2000 Times Union profile.
In a 2015 profile after breaking the indoor rowing record for her age group, Dottie Dorion said marriage is “easy when you have the right man”.
She said Friday that she was initially a little put off by his high intelligence. “He was Phi Beta Kappa for his senior year. That is unknown. I thought I didn’t want to go out with him,” she said.
But she was won over by his sense of humor.
“He was very, very funny, great sense of humor,” she said. Even in a situation that did not lend itself to a positive attitude, “he was always unexpectedly able to find something bright about it,” she said.
Mr. Dorion was a “wonderful family man who always turned to people” and a kind of peacemaker, even though he spoke differently with government officials.
“He had the ability to get along with people … iron things out,” she said.
Passions, Nonprofits, River Run
Fitness was one of the couple’s shared passions: she was a triathlete, he was a retired long-distance runner, and in 1978 they helped organize the first River Run as members of the Jacksonville Track Club.
In the 2015 Times Union story, Mr. Dorion said, “The first year we didn’t think anyone was coming, so we had a party in our house and invited the runners and key volunteers.”
They put up a tent in the back of the house with food and music for about 1,000 runners. “It turned out to be a really big draw,” he said.
Another common passion was philanthropy. They have supported a variety of nonprofits, including two Dottie Dorion co-founded – Volunteers in Medicine Jacksonville and Community Hospice and Palliative Care. The White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee and the University of North Florida were also benefactors of Dorion.
“George Dorion was a strong advocate of Volunteers in Medicine long before the doors opened,” said Jennifer Ryan, CEO of Volunteers in Medicine. “He was one of Dottie’s biggest supporters and believed in the mission. Through his love of uninsured work, he laughed with our volunteers, encouraged Bacardi Corporation to participate, and lit a room every time he was around He Will Really be missed and he left quite a legacy in this community. ”
Helen Morse, a former chairman of the non-profit, said: “He has always been very supportive of us. He expected us to run VIM as a well-run company, which I have always valued. He was a very smart man.”
The couple also set up a fund at the Community Foundation in northeast Florida in 2017 to provide college or professional scholarships to students whose parents or guardians are employed by Bacardi in Jacksonville.
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“Mr. and Mrs. Dorion started the scholarship because they called Jacksonville home and believed that the Bacardi Jacksonville employees were part of the Bacardi family and, therefore, part of their legacy,” said Joanne Cohen, vice president, philanthropic Services at the foundation. “George Dorion was so proud of this scholarship fund and the opportunities it offered for Bacardi employees and their families.”
Other survivors are the sons Mark Dorion, Christopher Dorion, Timothy Dorion and daughter Lisanne Dorion as well as three grandchildren. A private service was held on Friday, followed by a private funeral on Monday.
Memorials may be directed to the George and Dottie Dorion Bacardi Fellowship Fund, Northeast Florida Community Foundation, 245 Riverside Ave., Suite 310, Jacksonville, FL 32202, or jaxcf.org or Community Hospice and Palliative Care, 4266 Sunbeam Road, Jacksonville . FL 32256 or communityhospice.com.
Beth Reese Cravey: (904) 359-4109.
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