Remembering George Rolfe

George Rolfe

George Richard Rolfe died unexpectedly on Tuesday, April 30, 2019 after a fall at his Guemes Island home. He was an only child born on July 5, 1937 to John and Helen Rolfe, and was preceded in death by his first wife of 41 years, Maryann Lovett Rolfe. George was husband, father, step-father, grandfather, friend to many, university educator, real estate developer, architect, world-wide traveler, baseball lover, and driver of his tractor on his beloved Guemes Island property.

George earned his degrees at Iowa State University and the University of Pennsylvania. He taught at the University of Washington School of Built Environment (formerly known as the School of Architecture) for 32 years and was a pioneer of real estate education. He held the Filley Endowed Professor Real Estate and helped shape the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies and the school's Masters' program. He inspired generations with his integrity and practical wisdom. He leaves behind a vast network of alumni and friends whose lives and career were profoundly shaped by his influence. To each he gave the gift of his own brilliance and vision. Many of his hundreds of students became leaders in the community and share stories of their memorable George Rolfe class experiences. While known to be a demanding professor, his students credit him for having a tremendous impact on shaping their careers.

Not only did George Rolfe make a difference as a professor, but also as the first Director of the Pike Place Market Public Development Authority in 1973. He played a significant role in the rehabilitation and the economic revitalization of the Market. Under his leadership, the vibrant urban space of the market became more pedestrian-friendly and included both regular and low income housing. When he retired in 2016, Mayor Edward B. Murray proclaimed May 26, 2016 George Rolfe Day.

In the early 1980's, members of Plymouth Congregational Church noticed people sleeping on the sidewalk outside the church. George had been a close observer - having built low income housing into the fabric of the Market. He and others led the leasing of many buildings, starting first with the Seven Seas Hotel, that was ultimately the forerunner of Plymouth Housing. They realized residents needed more than a room. From this developed the concept of "Supportive Housing" that Plymouth Housing uses today to shelter over 1,000 formerly homeless residents.

George's surviving family include his wife, Lois Gamble Duncan, his children Rebecca Lynn Rolfe (Susan Mooney), Robin Rolfe (Paul Mattson), Nick Rolfe (Terry), Patrick Rolfe (Rebecca), his step-children Brian Jobe, Jennifer Halpin, (Jack), Timothy Jobe (Amy Stepanian); grandchildren India Rolfe, Li Mattson, Matthew Mattson, Carter Halpin, Natalie Halpin, Bryn Halpin, Zaia Rolfe, Nathan Rolfe, and Alex Rolfe.

If making a difference to the community, to his profession, to his grieving family and to his many devoted friends all represent a measure of his lifetime, then George excelled in every endeavor. He will be greatly missed. George Rolfe's full, busy, happy life brought much joy to his family and friends.

These traits will be evident at the celebration of his life to be held at Plymouth Congregational Church on June 2, 2019 at 2:00 pm followed by a reception. Ever frugal with himself, George was most generous with others. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Plymouth Housing or to the charity of your choice.

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