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Friday, February 3, 2023
Home Obituaries Manursing Island Club Pro Dies in I-287 Crash

Manursing Island Club Pro Dies in I-287 Crash

George S. Wilkinson, who served as the director of racquet sports at Manursing Island Club for over five years until last fall, perished on a fatal crash last Thursday around 10pm on I-287 in Harrison.

The preliminary investigation by State Police determined Wilkinson, age 37, was driving eastbound in the left hand lane at a high rate of speed when he veered into the center lane and struck a vehicle being driven by Leah D. Gardiner, 51, of Stamford, CT. Wilkinson lost control of his vehicle, which crossed all three lanes and went over the guiderail, striking a large sign and catching fire.

Wilkinson was pronounced dead at the scene. Gardiner was not injured.

Rye Resident and Manursing Island Club member Eric Pepper has written the following remembrance of Wilkinson.

By Eric Pepper

Obituary - George Wilkinson
(PHOTO: George S. Wilkinson.)

I didn’t grow up going to beach clubs, or playing tennis for that matter, so the sight of a classically handsome British man, dressed up in what looked like white safari gear in the middle of the summer, made little to no sense to me. Further yet, the man carried a megaphone, a clip board and seemed to be at the center of complete chaos. Children ran amok, concerned parents hovered, and a host of international voices permeated the air, somehow it was quickly controlled by the man in white. This was a typical day in the life of George Wilkinson.

As time went on, I created, begrudgingly, my own relationship with racquet sports, given my wife and kids seemed to be having such a good time. I vividly remember walking into the pro shop, making some stupid joke to George about “if he really liked tennis, he should check out what I’ll be doing on Court 3 in ten minutes”. After realizing I was indeed kidding, a friendship was born.

Whether it was talking about the World Cup, exchanging travel ideas for the end of the summer, or catching up on the latest events, George had an effusive energy, a quick wit, and a love of being not just a tennis pro, but one of the guys.

Long before I ever met him, George was a top junior tennis player and one of the top 10 paddle tennis players in the world. When you saw him on the court, be it in the Richardson Tournament or hitting with college players 15 years his junior, you realized there was a completely different person at work. Years of training and intensity went in to making something extremely difficult look easy.

George was a child at heart, and amongst those that will miss him most are the children he taught. Although he got them to work hard, he gave them ice pops, made them laugh, and let them throw him into the pool at the end of the season to all of their delight. He danced with them at the sports dinners like no one was watching.

The last time my wife Lia and I hung out with George and his faithful buddy Enrique, he was as his custom, entertaining the crowd at L’Escale. He was exuberantly discussing his plans to “dive with tiger sharks” while pulling up stock images on his phone and yelling “Look at this mate, it’s an F&*king tiger shark.”

George died as he lived, full throttle, no time to waste, on to the next adventure.

While it is very difficult to say goodbye, I would leave you with this. The next time you have a racquet in your hand, or skis, a surfboard, whatever it may be. Reach deep down, and hit it as hard as you can, that’s the way George would want it.


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