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Obituary: George Breisacher, 1939-2004
posted September 30, 2004
George Breisacher, an illustrator and comic strip cartoonist who served as National Cartoonists Society President in the mid-1990s, died on August 11 in his Charlotte, North Carolina home after a heart attack.
Breisacher was born in Toledo, Ohio in 1939 and raised in Grand Blanc, Michigan. He pursued several careers early on, including a stint in his twenties as a musician who played in the 158th Army Band out of Fort Knox, Kentucky. Working in a post office in Fenton, Michigan, Breisacher began to provide drawings and illustrations for the nearby Oakland Press in Pontiac, Michigan. He created a cartoon strip called Boon Dock, which the Press would run until 1975. In 1976 he created a humorous strip based on the first 200 years of life in his home of Mecklenburg County, North Carolina called The First 200.
The artist later drew a syndicated newspaper strip called Knobs, about a small-time television station, for United Media in 1978. It lasted two years. Starting in 1981, Breisacher was the final cartoonist put in charge of the Mutt and Jeff, then with Field Newspaper Syndicate. Breisacher wrote and initially provided art for what was then the longest-running strip. He later brought on his friend Jim Scancarelli to handle the art chores, joking that if credited together their names would exceed the panel borders. Scancarelli recalls that Breisacher had any number of ideas for strips, including one in a barnyard setting and a concept called "Like Cats and Dogs," featuring one of each as a married couple.
Breisacher took a staff position providing illustrations for the Charlotte Observer starting in 1973, a job he held until his retirement in 2001 He was also a longtime freelance illustrator, a pursuit he continued after his retirement. "George was a wonderful artist," his friend and area colleague Bruce Higdon told the Journal. "His work was simple, bold line, with an excellent use of color." Charlotte-based Dennis the Menace artist Marcus Hamilton said, "As a freelancer myself for 20 years, I so respected his versatility." Both Hamilton and Scancarelli praised Breisacher's design sense, and each noted he used a computer years before most illustrators took them on. "He was very inventive and ahead of his time," Scancarelli recalled.
Breisacher may be best remembered for his deep involvment with the National Cartoonists Society. He joined in 1972 and served as the group's newsletter editor (1987-1997), a National Representative (1994-1997), and eventually President (1997-1999). While president the legendarily organized Breisacher helped launch the NCS web site, www.reuben.org. "George invited me to write a column called 'The Online Cartoonist' for the newsletter," said longtime Journal contributor Ron Evry, a typical Breisacher recruit. "I wrote about the idea of the NCS starting a web page. The next thing I knew I was asked to create their first web site, and George co-sponsored me for membership in the organization." Evry remembers Breisacher as a "decent human being who saw the best in everyone he worked with."
Breisacher helped form the Southeast Chapter of the Society in the early 1990s, and was awarded the Silver T-Square in 1995 for efforts on behalf of cartooning that would continue for nearly another ten years. "He had a sense of decorum about him," Scancarelli says, "but he was also really easy-going. That endeared him to everybody. You wanted to help him." Breisacher was known in his community as a coach at the Winterfield Booster Club, a season ticket-holder for the Carolina Panthers football team, and a man who stayed active, completing four marathons.
George Breisacher remained an organizer to the end. Hamilton told the Journal that Breisacher phoned two days before his passing attempting to organize the Charlotte-area cartoonists into meetings. On August 30, a group of Charlotte cartoonists gathered together, joined by Breisacher's widow and two of his grown children. They plan to meet on a monthly basis as a tribute to their friend and colleague, under the name "The By George Cartoonist Club." "He was just a gentleman," said Hamilton. "I think that's what people liked about him."
A memorial service was held in Charlotte the Saturday after Breisacher's passing. He is survived by a wife, Jayne, three children and five grandchildren.