George Gurnett’s former school Principal and current guardian, Marsha Zalik, has shared a long history with George, starting back when he was twelve years old, through his high school years and now into his adult life in Grande Prairie.
George did not attend school until he was twelve years old. Until then, his only education was through an aide who visited his foster home to teach him how to read.
Marsha met George when he was living in a group home run by the Vermilion Association for the Mentally Handicapped. At the time, George was a student at Lenora Clarke School. Marsha remembers that George made enormous progress in a very short time once he started school. She also remembers that current Association Executive Director, Barry Bucknell, was a social worker in the St. Paul Vermilion area at the time.
George has always had a kind and caring personality. Marsha noticed his sensitivity in many ways as she came to know him over the years. She was Principal at the school George attended in Vermilion and remembers that he was always quick to notice and comment if she had a headache or was wearing a nice outfit. During that time, Marsha referred to George as her “on again, off again” foster child. Even today, Marsha will introduce George as her “foster son” in many situations. At eighteen years old, George was underwent many changes in guardianship, something that Marsha noticed and finally stepped in to take over, having determined that was “enough.”
In 1990, Marsha moved to Grande Prairie with George, who moved into one of the Association’s group homes. Marsha then began her involvement with the Association, exploring options for George. She remembers the first time George entered his new residence. He recognized right away that it was not “institutional,” with large rooms floored with lino, but that the residence was very homelike and welcoming. After settling into his new group home life, George began what Marsha refers to as a “gentle” transition to supported work experiences in the community.
George maintains his lifelong passion for hockey. He has season tickets to the Storm hockey games and rarely misses a televised game. One of his favourite possessions is a photo he had taken with Wayne Gretzky.