Family says he died peacefully in his sleep at 109

Friends say George Eberhardt had a quick wit and was always ready with a pun.

During George Eberhardt’s 37-year tenure as Drew’s sound engineer, he went out of his way to help others on campus who had audio-visual needs—whether that meant climbing in a window to plug in an electrical cord, taking a door off its hinges if he didn’t have a key, or staying on campus until the wee hours of the morning to get his work done.

“He didn’t always play by the rules,” admitted his former employee Jeannie Kosakowski, who was hired by Mr. Eberhardt in 1976. “He would drive his jeep on the lawn, but he would do anything for anyone, even if it wasn’t part of his job.”

Mr. Eberhardt, a Newark native, came to Drew in 1967 after retiring  from Bell labs. He maintained the language lab equipment, set up microphones and speakers, and recorded speeches given on campus.

Mr. Eberhardt was nearly 100 when he retired from Drew and lived until the age of 109 and seven months, dying peacefully in his sleep on April 28 at his Chester home.

Mr. Eberhardt received an honorary degree from Drew, was inducted into its Hall of Fame and had a dormitory named after him. He also leaves behind countless hours of recorded speeches he made during his career. The recordings are a slice of Drew’s history, preserved in the university archives in good condition. “Most of our audio-visual recordings are due to this man,” said Matthew R. Beland, university archivist.

Philip Eberhardt, said he will remember his father as a person with a lifelong curiosity and love of learning, who didn’t have much of a formal education, but taught himself how to fix things, “He always had a thirst for knowledge. He would carry a pencil with him and take it out and write down his ideas and sketches.”

George Eberhardt  also was well-known for his old age. He took part in two longevity studies and was invited at the age of 107, to donate his DNA to help identify the genetic keys to longevity.

Robert Gainey, manager of media services, said even at the age of 96, Mr. Eberhardt would visit his office and talk about music and audio recordings, “He always wanted to see what we were doing. He always had a funny story.”

He was married to his second wife Marie since 1941 and had a total of seven children. Survivors include his wife, five children, 13 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren.

The Eberhardt family will host “A Celebration of George’s Life” on Friday, May 16, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the William J. Leber Funeral Home in Chester. A funeral service will be held at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 17, at the First Congregational Church in Chester.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that any donations be made to the Fund for Drew or to the Trustees of Columbia University, Dr. Mears’ Research Fund.