George Cooper Tibbetts, 88, of Camden, and Tucson, Ariz., passed away April 15, 2014, in Tucson.
He was born Aug. 27, 1925, in Pawtucket, R.I., and was the only son of the late Dr. Raymond Winslow Tibbetts and Elizabeth Cooper Tibbetts. He was predeceased by his sister Winnifred Greenlaw. George grew up in Pawtucket, R.I.; Kirksville, Mo.; Cambridge, Mass.; and Camden. George attended the top science high school, Rindge Tech in Cambridge, where he graduated at the top of his class. At the age of 20, he graduated cum laude with a degree in physics from Harvard University. He received an M.S. in physics from Syracuse University in 1965. He then worked on his doctorate at Harvard, and in later years attended the University of Arizona where he was the oldest doctoral candidate in physics -- at the age of 84 -- in the history of the department.
George was a science buff from a young age. By the time he was 9 years old, he was drawing electrical circuits, learning Morse code and studying radio catalogs. He and his father “Doc” built a crystal radio, and George became, at the age of 11, the country’s youngest licensed ham radio operator. He and his father then worked together to develop the crystal microphone. In 1943, while still at Harvard, George invented the first Diabow, a device which converts electrical energy into mechanical vibrations or , conversely, converts mechanical energy into electrical impulses. He and his father went on to produce this commercially. The molded Diabow, George’s first patented device, became the product which led to Tibbetts Industries early success.
Tibbetts Industries had been founded by Dr. Tibbetts with the help of George and local investors. After graduating from Harvard, George returned to Camden to work with his father. Upon his father’s death in 1964, George became president of the business. He continued his work there as an industrial physicist until the business sold in 2007. George was not only involved in company management, but continued to design and invent pioneering acoustical devices throughout his career. His passion for exploring theoretical physics continued until he died.
George met his wife Joan Sawyer in the Congregational Church choir and they married that same year in 1947. They shared a love of classical music and opera, and spent many hours with George singing while Joan accompanied him on the piano. After they had their three children, they discovered their passion for gardening and traveling. George loved apples and was a connoisseur of old varieties. He and Joan traveled the state every fall in search of different varieties to try. George also enjoyed gliding and playing chess, and he was an avid reader.
George is survived by his wife Joan S. Tibbetts, sons Lawrence and Paul Tibbetts, daughter Elizabeth Tibbetts and her husband James Guerra, grandson Zachary Morong and his wife Aileen Park, and three great-grandchildren, Avery, Lilia and Ewan Park-Morong. Special thanks go to his caregiver, Ethel Bassler of Tucson.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to: Raymond Winslow Tibbetts Memorial Fund and mailed to the University of Maine, Gift Processing Department, P.O. Box 370, Orono, ME 04473-0370; or to the Bay Chamber Music School Scholarship Fund, Bay Chamber Music School, P.O. Box 599, Rockport, ME 04856.
A funeral will take place at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church, 33 Chestnut St., Camden, Tuesday, May 20, at 11 a.m. A reception to celebrate George’s life will follow in the church’s parish hall.