The Heart of Kernersville: George Groce
By NJ Clausen
Hello, Everyone! Welcome to summer! Warm days, cool clothes…and maybe a ball game or two. This month it brings me great pleasure to introduce you to a man whose name will be familiar to many in Kernersville, especially Little League ball players… Mr. George Groce.
A native North Carolinian, George spent the first years of his life in Yadkinville and remembers riding his tricycle down the country road to his paternal grandparents’ house. When he was about to enter the first grade, his family moved to Kernersville, closer now to his maternal grandparents, aunts, and uncles. George liked living in Kernersville and smiled as he spoke of Kernersville Elementary and of Miss White, who was his 1st and 3rd grade teacher.
In high school, George enjoyed sports and played on the baseball and football teams. When out of school, George and the neighborhood kids would play outside, practicing and sharpening their baseball and football skills. One of his favorite memories was during the summer of his middle school years, when he played baseball for high school coach Jack Blaylock, who was a former pro ball player with the Dodgers. George went on to share that there were a number of good coaches and players in this area. When asked what the best thing was about high school, George responded, “The friends I had…and I still got them.” Although most of his friends were male, one of his friends who he also went to church with was his future wife, Sylvia.
While in high school, George was a bat boy for the Winston-Salem Cardinals, now known as the Winston-Salem Dash. After high school, he was asked if he would coach little league baseball. After taking some time to think about it, George accepted the position and received great satisfaction from the growth of the players, who ranged from 9-12 years old. One of his favorite memories was when his team was up against the team of Garland Nelson, a life-long friend who also had great love for the sport. George coached for 4 years, then became League President. There were monthly board meetings, responsibility for what was going on at the field, and for what the coaches were doing… many challenges, but a lot of fun! A highlight was when teams in the Junior League went to the Little League World Series in Kissimmee, Florida. The twelve players on the team had won the district championship followed by the state championship, and when you win the state championship you go to the world series. The team did not win, but they received a hero’s welcome upon their return to Kernersville.
For two years after high school, George worked for Allied Tool in Kernersville, then married Sylvia, and went to work at RJ Reynolds in the engineering department. In this position he traveled to Europe and all around the United States consulting and doing some design work, coming home each week to be with his family. George was also involved with the Kernersville Planning Board for 20 years and served as Chairman the last 5 years. One of the accomplishments he was part of included the development of South Main Street. George also remembered a project that did not happen, when a man from Atlanta would have built one of the largest malls between Boston and Atlanta in Kernersville. George has also been a member of the Civitan Club since 1979 and has served as both President and Lt. Governor over the Triad area for the 1-year term and for the year prior to each position and the year following the position.
Throughout the years, a constant has been George’s love of baseball. He umpired for 10 years, including at the Southern Region Baseball Tournament, he served as a District Administrator for Little League in the Triad area, and in 1992 he received the Volunteer of the Year award. George feels the biggest thing he has done was being a part of building the Swaim Complex, which was done under his leadership and where many new friendships were formed.
George also learned how to fly an airplane, ride a motorcycle, and has enjoyed his life. He loves his family, enjoys his friends and would not trade growing up in Kernersville and the opportunities that he has had for anything. To the younger people and new arrivals, he urges them to take advantage of the opportunities available to them. To athletes, the three P’s…practice, practice, practice!! George feels that sports are important, as they teach responsibility and encourage friendship. George is grateful for the friends he made when young who are still close friends today.