A small army of volunteer grape pickers gathered for coffee and harvesting instructions at the Ingels Vineyard on Norman's near east side a few years back. Inside the vineyard's lodge, Dr. George Ingels showed us how to correctly snip the Merlot grapes from the vines. Who knew grape harvesting was such an exact science?
If a finger was knicked in the process, there was a first aid station inside with plenty of Band-aids.
"But please, if you can help it, don't bleed on the grapes," Ingels said with the kind of dramatic emphasis and smile that let us know he was already having fun and the sun wasn't even up.
That's the George Ingels many of us will remember as we mourn his recent passing at age 83. He touched many lives with his civic activities, music, medicine, hospital service and the vineyard he and Jane imagined and built after retirement.
• • •
Ingels was born in Prague and moved to Norman at age 13. He played the saxophone and was selected drum major at Norman High and at OU where he earned a zoology degree in 1958 before graduating from the OU College of Medicine in 1961. After residency and military service he and Jane moved back to Norman and George became Norman Municipal Hospital's first pathologist in 1968.
He worked as hospital orderly while in college before medical school and later served as a volunteer on the hospital's governing board.
One of the couple's four children, Dr. Stephen Ingels, also a hospital pathologist, said his father seemed to have a need to fix things and could usually find a way to do it.
As a pathologist, George spent most of his career working in a windowless lab at the hospital.
"He was underground most of the time and never even knew what the weather was," Stephen Ingels said. "But he loved being outdoors."
• • •
That same year he joined Norman Municipal, he and Jane moved to Ravenwood Lane in the tiny township of Hall Park.
They became champions of their town with George helping activate the board of trustees and served three terms as mayor. He wrote and edited a Hall Park newsletter and later a newspaper, the Hall Park Herald. He and Jane pushed for greenbelts and natural areas and then built and installed kiosks with trail maps and information on the trees they selected. Jane served for many years on the Norman school board.
During his final term he shepherded Hall Park's disincorporation as a town and annexation by Norman.
• • •
Jerry and Penny Thompson and their children were the first residents of Hall Park in 1961. Ike Hall developed the all-electric community and needed at least 10 residents to incorporate as a town.
"Since there were 11 of us -- you had to have 10 to be a city -- he (Hall) could apply to the state to be a town," said Bob Thompson, one of Penny and Jerry's sons and a former mayor of Norman.
He said Ingels was passionate about his community and was a champion for the township.
"He just wanted Hall Park to be the ultimate neighborhood," Thompson said. He said Ingels opposed annexation but after it was the only solution to the town's water, sewer and street problems he supported the cause and negotiated hard for the residents.
• • •
In retirement, Ingels created a walking area along the east side of the south Hall Park lake. He hauled gravel, large rocks, soil and rolls of Bermuda grass to stabilize the area.
He designed and installed a "fish fence" to keep fish from being washed down the drainage ditch when big rains occurred.
"I think he just had a very creative and problem solver personality," said Jane Ingels. "He was always interested and enthusiastic about construction projects -- both in planning and actually building."
• • •
Besides church and community friends and neighbors, three generations of the Ingels family help bring in the grape harvest.
George and Jane took up the hobby in retirement. As with all of his endeavors, George was meticulous about every detail of the vineyard.
They researched and visited vineyards around the country. George teamed up with an OSU professor to write a book on growing grapes in Oklahoma.
The harvest had nothing to do with profits or losses. It was uniting a community of friends and family.
"The goal we have is for you to have a good time," Ingels told us at the pre-harvest meeting. "I have trouble finding new words each year to thank you."
Now, it's our turn to thank you, George. Our community is a better place because of you.