Mount Vernon News

Mount Vernon News
January 29, 2014 10:44 am EST


HIGH POINT, N.C. — George H. Urban was born Sept. 29, 1922, in Pittsburgh, Pa., to John and Mary Urban. He grew up as a child of the Great Depression on the South Side of Pittsburgh, near the steel mills, where he worked in the chemistry labs during college. After graduating from South High School, he started at the University of Pittsburgh, meeting his future wife and life-long love, Nellie Urban.

During his freshman year, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Force, becoming a Second Lieutenant, because, he said, he was the only guy in the squad with ROTC training — two weeks. Mr. Urban served in the 367th Bombardment Squadron of the 8th Air Force, as a navigator, flying missions based in North Africa, Sicily and England. Photos from those years show a dashing young man in tailored uniforms, cultivating a Clark Gable-style mustache that he kept throughout his life.

After the war, he returned to Pitt, and married Nellie on Feb. 2, 1947. In addition to his Bachelor of Arts, he received an MBA from Pitt while pursuing a career at Westinghouse in Beaver and Pittsburgh, Pa. In 1970, he accepted a position with the Panama Canal Company as chief industrial engineer, rising to director of canal operations, the position from which he retired in 1986. For 16 years Mr. Urban was responsible for modernizing and restructuring how the Canal was run, in the process training a generation of Panamanian engineers to handle the myriad details of the locks and waterways. He was also instrumental in negotiations to transfer the Canal to the government of Panama, receiving several commendations for his efforts.

After retirement, he and Nellie lived in Abingdon Va., Mount Vernon, and River Landing at Sandy Ridge, where he pursued his hobbies of stamp and coin collecting, and was active in the Rotary Club and other civic organizations.

Mr. Urban is survived by his son, Michael (Liz Urban) and daughter, Patricia (Edward Schortman); and his three beloved grandchildren, Jane Urban, and Aeleka and Hayden Schortman.

His service will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, in the chapel of Cumby Family Funeral Service in High Point, N.C., with Reverend Thomas P. Norris, O.S.F.S. officiating. In lieu of flowers, please remember George by contributing to Alzheimer’s and dementia associations for research. Online condolences may be made through

Goodbye, Dad and Granddad — we will miss you.

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