“Dan, do you remember going down to City Hall to pick up your Liberty Pin?” George asked.

“No,” I replied politely. “Just what is a Liberty Pin?”

“You know,” George continued, “just after the end of World War II, we all went downtown to pick up our victory pins.”

A hush descended on the room as the dozen or more of my fellow committee members stared in George’s direction. “George,” I replied, “none of us had even been born yet!”

George surveyed the group, shook his head slowly and merely chuckled silently to himself.

Ten days after hearing the news that the induction heating community had lost our good friend Fred Specht came word that another titan in the field, George Pfaffmann, had passed away as well.

I recall vividly attending George’s retirement party from Ajax Tocco after 50 years of dedicated service. It amazed me even more when he told me that he had worked four years for another company prior to joining Ajax Tocco. Fifty-four years of creativity and innovation, working day in and day out at a high level was very impressive. Little did I know that his idea of retirement was to continue working, albeit only three days a week for Ajax Tocco for another 15 years! George loved what he did, and there was a glow about him when he spoke about heat treatment.

George was a visionary and a rare breed in today’s world. He was always looking for the next innovation, the next breakthrough that would help advance both the state-of-the-art in the heat-treat industry specifically and civilization as a whole. And George, like Fred Specht, shared all he knew with anyone who asked.

George’s father had been a baker, and George’s work ethic stemmed from his dad. He recounted starting work at 3:00 a.m. every day and being in charge of the flour delivery, with plumes of white powder rising from the chute as the delivery truck pumped it into underground holding tanks at the bakery in Detroit. Perhaps that’s why George always rose early and worked out at the health club at 4:30 a.m. 

George was one of my staunchest mentors, offering sage advice and professional criticism. He kept a watchful eye to make sure that I did not stray from the path of “sharing and caring” as he liked to say.

One more story will suffice to express my gratitude to this great man, namely how we met. George Totten and Dale Poteet had called a meeting of the then P&E (Programming and Events) committee, now known as the T&P (Technology and Programming) committee, of ASM International to discuss restructuring and revitalizing the technical programs offered at the ASM/HTS Heat Treat Conference. They were looking for someone to head a key subcommittee. When they asked for a volunteer, the two of us, sitting near one another, rose in unison. There was no question that George, as the senior man, should get the assignment, but in his true fashion, he suggested immediately that we co-chair the committee – a true act of a selfless spirit.

This successful collaboration led to our working together on the Research & Development committee during the days when Vision 2020 was being formulated and later together again on the HTS board. Our friendship grew stronger and closer, with George always offering sage advice and encouragement, which we used to better not only ASM International but also the heat-treatment industry as a whole.

George, you will be missed, and may God grant you eternal peace!

Your friend, Dan