Michael J. George, a patriarch of the Chaldean American community and native of Detroit, died today at the age of 81 after a long illness.
Mr. George was the Chaldean community’s leader and spokesman for the better part of a generation. He was also one of the most recognizable and revered businessmen in Michigan, best known for his humility, gentle heart, and deal making skills. Business, political and religious leaders regularly sought out his advice and counsel.
The quintessential American success story, Mr. George built the Melody Farms Dairy Co. with his brother Sharkey from a single milk route into the largest privately held dairy and beverage distribution company in Michigan, acquiring along the way a number of area dairy entities, including Stroh’s Ice Cream. When sold to Dean’s Foods in 2003, Melody enjoyed more than 10,000 retail customers and over $150 million in annual revenues.
Mr. George went on to focus on several other business interests, including real estate, food products, technology, banking and healthcare, forever staying active in both business and philanthropy. He was one of the driving forces behind the formation of Bank of Michigan, a community bank focused largely on small business lending, which Mr. George believed was the essence of the American dream.
He championed several essential causes for the Chaldean community as the former Chairman of the Chaldean Federation of America and as co-founder and past president of the Chaldean Iraqi American Association of Michigan. Mr. George was instrumental in establishing both the Southfield Manor and later the Shenandoah Banquet, Golf, Community and Conference Center.
Most recently, he spearheaded several new programs to aid tens of thousands minority Christians flee unrelenting violence and persecution in Iraq and throughout the Middle East.
A dedicated family man, he is survived by his wife of 54 years, Najat, their six sons, Rodney, Bobby, Anthony, Lenny, Scott and Mikey, ten grandchildren and his brother Sharkey.
A mass will be held at Mother of God Chaldean Catholic Church, 25585 Berg Rd. i, Southfield at 10 a.m. Thursday, June 26. People can pay their respects to the family the same day from 3 – 7 p.m. at the Shenandoah, 5600 Walnut Lake Rd. in West Bloomfield. Interment will follow church services at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, 25800 W. Ten Mile Rd, in Southfield.
In light of his longstanding commitment to charity, in lieu of flowers the family requests that donations be made to the Michael J. George Charity at 30777 Northwestern Hwy., Suite 300, Farmington Hills, MI 48334 or online at mjgcharity.org