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Saturday, September 4, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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George Hunt, Engineer Who Won Olympic Gold Medal With UW

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

Put George "Shorty" Hunt in a boat - it didn't matter what kind - and he was happy. Let him go off by himself to cruise and fish for three or four hours, and he was even happier.

The longtime general contractor - who rowed on the University of Washington crew that won a gold medal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics - got along great with people.

He could turn on the charm, adopt a free-spirit persona and command respect with his engineering skill and knowledge of sports.

He raised funds for the UW's Big "W" Club and also for a local arm of the Olympics Committee. He also commanded attention with his 6-foot-5 height. That's why college crewmates started calling him "Shorty."

But he was most at home with the fish and his thoughts on the water.

Mr. Hunt died yesterday (Sept. 3) from complications of a stroke. He was 83.

Born in Puyallup, he graduated from high school at age 16. He earned an engineering degree at the UW in 1936. He played some tennis but excelled in rowing, making the varsity team that blitzed Berlin in 1936.

"The gold medal he got was very impressive. I used to play with it when I was a little girl," said his daughter Kristin Cheney of Federal Way. "The crew got together at least once a year for reunions."

Her father didn't tell her much about the Olympics except that the UW team was isolated from political events and concentrated mainly on competition.

Mr. Hunt worked for construction firms in Seattle in the late 1930s, then served in the Navy Seabees during World War II.

After the war he co-founded Collins-Hunt Construction. Later he headed George E. Hunt Construction, specializing in commercial buildings. The Burien Library and Seattle University's Lemieux Library were among his projects, and he was the main contractor for the Carmelite Monastery.

"Engineering was always his interest," said his daughter. "He was very good at all aspects of it."

Mr. Hunt worked in the Port of Seattle's engineering department before retiring in 1980. But he also did volunteer work for the UW and the Olympics.

"They were always roping him into things," said his wife of 61 years, Eleanor Hunt of Issaquah. "They knew he would come through with what they needed. He was a born leader, able to turn on the charm. He was a free spirit and didn't take life too seriously."

Also surviving are daughter Kathleen Grogan of Woodinville; brother Donald Hunt of Cincinnati, Ohio; and one granddaughter.

Services will be held later.

Carole Beers' e-mail address is: cbeers@seattletimes.com

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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