George Gammons cited a regular walking routine and cutting up a rug at the Sapphire Ballroom in Christiansburg as two reasons for his longevity. This past week, he passed away at the age of 103.
“I love just to dance,” he said, shortly after a brisk walk at the recreation center during his 100th birthday party at the downtown dance hall. “I danced while in high school.”
He drove up until the last few years and lived independently in the house where he and his late wife of 61 years, Hazel, lived after moving here in 1956.
After attending Concord and Marshall universities, Gammons graduated from Roanoke Business College in 1936. He worked initially as an accountant with Consolidated Bus Lines in Bluefield, West Virginia.
In the early 60’s, he owned and operated Gammon’s Dairy Treat on Radford Street in Christiansburg, which was in addition to his full-time work. He later built the building that housed Ray’s Restaurant for over 25 years.
He grew up in North Fork, West Virginia, moving to Christiansburg in 1956, to work at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant. He would then become a courier for seven different banks, retiring after 30 years at the age of 95.
When it came to his dancing, not many people half his age managed to keep up. He had learned nine different dances ranging from the Fox Trot, Hustle and Tennessee Waltz to Two-Step, Salsa and Shag.
Linda Stancil was the owner, instructor and his dance partner at Sapphire. She called him amazing and one that he never complained about getting tired. “There is no comparison to others a lot younger than him,” she said. The two had been dancing together for the past 10 years.
Just think about what Gammon had seen during his lifetime—two world wars, the landing on the moon, the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King and 15 U.S. presidents.
He previously admitted he smoked cigarettes until his 60s when the surgeon general announced they were bad for your health. “I never picked up another one after that.”
Gammon had seen major changes in Christiansburg with the biggest being the housing market.
“In the early years, there were not many homes here for people to move into. That has definitely changed. We also only had one policeman during those early years,” he joked during that birthday party.
At 101, he voted in his 21st election for president. He also had been a longtime member of St. Paul Methodist Church, acting as an usher for almost 50 years.
Over the past year, Gammons had fought health issues, cutting back on both his walking and dancing.