Town man played role in growth of Silicon Valley

The late George Oswald McKee.
The late George Oswald McKee.

A PORTADOWN man, who was a prominent figure in the growth of Silicon Valley, has passed away at his home in California.

George Oswald McKee died peacefully at home in St Helena, Napa County surrounded by his family, on January 13, 2013.

George was born in Portadown to Elsie Alexandra and Hugh George McKee. His early years were spent in London, England, in the midst of the turmoil of World War II.

His 18-year-old brother, Valentine, was killed while serving as a Royal Air Force pilot when his plane was shot down over the English Channel. During the London Blitz, George and his older sister Yvonne were evacuated to Sheerness in southern England, leaving his younger sister, Eithne, and parents in London.

After three years, George and his sister were moved back to Northern Ireland where they settled in Clabby, County Fermanagh with relatives.

These childhood experiences during the war had a profound and lasting impact on George, which ultimately sparked a lifelong fascination with World War II.

His family reunited in Northern Ireland in 1945. He later attended Queen’s University Belfast, followed by University of Oxford in England.

George, known affectionately as ‘Ossie’, had a love for playing both rugby and cricket. It was while playing rugby for Oxford that he first visited the United States to play against UC Berkeley. After suffering a devastating leg injury and facing post-war devastation in Europe, he decided to emigrate to America. George came through Ellis Island with his cousin, Norman Ballantyne, with only 50 dollars in his pocket.

George attended UC Berkeley on scholarship and worked at the Union Service gas station on Nob Hill to make ends meet. After receiving his master of engineering degree from UC Berkeley, George held positions at Peerless Pump and General Mills before embarking on his career in commercial real estate in 1964.

Throughout the following decades, George was a prolific real estate developer, broker and prominent figure in the growth of what is known today as Silicon Valley. While at Renault & Handley, he partnered with Raymond Handley in the development of dozens of industrial buildings in Palo Alto, Mountain View and Sunnyvale. The two were instrumental in assisting such valley pioneers as Fairchild Semiconductor, Intel, Apple Computer, Netscape and Yahoo with their early-stage real estate needs.

Highly respected by his peers, George was universally well-liked and considered a man of integrity. Many a young broker and developer sought his counsel through the years, and George was never too busy to take the time to mentor them, or lend a helping hand.

George was also an active volunteer, having served as a board member and past president for the Mid Peninsula Tennis Patrons, an organization that provided financial aid for local junior tennis players to travel and compete in national tournaments.

In addition, George served on the boards of the Northern California Tennis Association, the Portola Valley Unified School District, the Palo Alto Club (where he was a past president), and was passionate in his support of Stanford University Athletics, the Cardinal Buck Club, the Daper Fund and the Hoover Institute.

George was known for his intelligence, his continued curiosity and his intellectual striving, but perhaps most importantly for his graciousness and kind heart. He was also known for telling a great story and regaled many with tales from his childhood and the early years of development in Silicon Valley.

George is survived by his loving wife, Joan, his children, Katie, Geordie, Heather and Adriana, and his grandchildren, Ryan, Elsie, Ali, Jack and Olivia. He is also survived by his sisters, Yvonne Dutton and Eithne Hobson, and former wife, Pamela Seitz.

George’s obituary comes to The Portadown Times courtesy of The Napa Valley Register