George Dunnebacke died on July 21, 2020, at the Jack Byrne Center hospice in Lebanon, after a sudden, precipitous “insidious decline” in health, due to cancer.
Those who knew George would not be surprised that he delighted in the designation “insidious decline,” and promptly stole it as a title of one of his famous one-page plays, written under the pen name G. Z’bach. George’s flair for irreverent humor was epitomized in his recent penning of a series of epitaphs for his own gravestone. These include “I Rest My Case,” “Wish You Were Here” and “Did Not Play Nicely with Others,” and were recently translated into Irish by his friends from the Brattleboro Irish class.
Born Jan. 28, 1943, in Mason, Mich., to Robert Dunnebacke and Mabel Lucile Dunnebacke (nee Barnaby), the family moved around the American West, to Albuquerque, N.M., and eventually to the San Francisco Bay area, where his father worked as a printer. Graduating high school in San Jose, Calif., George attended college at U.C. Berkeley in the heyday of 1960s counterculture, where he studied science, linguistics, history and music.
Disinterested in maintaining a job, George nevertheless briefly fashioned himself a lucrative career in computer programming, with no previous training. He also had a number of devoted piano students over the years who remember him as a passionate and rigorous teacher who inspired a unique appreciation for music.
George was married twice, first to Carol Hughes, with whom he had a daughter, and later to Josephine Crichton, with whom he also had a daughter. In later years, he was accompanied, and cared for, by his close friends, Sean and Kimberly McElman, in his adopted home of Walpole.
Long-respected for his deep appreciation for, and understanding of, music — or more precisely, listening — George was moved to tears by the opus of J.S. Bach, late Beethoven and his beloved Komitas. His constantly evolving list of contenders for the top 10 best songs of all time included Iris DeMent, Gram Parsons and the Rolling Stones. George spent decades studying the music of G.I. Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann, as part of his lifelong affiliation with the Gurdjieff Foundation.
A lifelong ascetic, George enjoyed a hard bedroll for sleeping and, for many years, a carefully organized desk fashioned out of an ironing board. The enduring centerpiece to his existence was the piano, and a 1940s Model M Steinway ruled his roost until the end.
George is preceded in death by his beloved cat, Loretta; and survived by his next beloved cat, Pangur Bán. He is also survived by his two siblings, Mary Jean St. Claire and Laura Pesonen, as well as by his two daughters, Elizabeth and Anna, as well as his nieces, nephews and grandchildren. George’s ashes have traveled to Ireland to be laid to rest, and his piano is on its way to New Orleans. To see more of George or leave a remembrance, visit online at www.forevermissed.com/georgedunnebacke