George Foot was born in Kalispell, Montana, February 8, 1957, the son of Harold and Fusae Foot. His parents met in Fukuoka, Japan, where Harold was serving as an army medic in the U.S. hospital there during the Korean War. Fusae was a clerical worker there. They were married in San Francisco and soon returned to Kalispell to begin their family. The Foots made an extended trip to visit the Japanese family when George was a youngster and he even learned a bit of Japanese. He recalled his youth as a happy time and graduated from Kalispell High School in 1975.
An early career for George was running a hog farm on land south of Kalispell for a few years. He was a custodian at the Glacier Park Airport at the same time. Later he ran Christmas trees from Oregon to Arizona and sold them to retailers there. He was a banquet caterer in Las Vegas briefly. George relished in telling stories about his hardscrabble career, even though there were hard times, including a spell of homelessness in Seattle when he lived out of his car.
One day George learned about a work opportunity in far-flung Nome, Alaska. He rolled the dice and bought a ticket. That job didn’t pan out but he found others, including construction work, truck driving and other occupations. He seemed always to have three or four things going on at once. Nome was a busy place in the 1990’s. He prospered and soon had the capital to invest in a looming three-story house on Lomen Street. Known to the denizens of West Nome as the Tyvek Manor because of the strands of the fabric that flapped in the breeze, it was the first of his five properties, but it was always his opus magnum. Tourists, birdwatchers, Iditarod volunteers, miners and village people passed through for short stays or just to join in on the spontaneous kitchen table bull sessions, which were often contentious. Politics and religion were discussed and things could get loud. But all left laughing.
There were some rough clientele. Things went bump in the night. Cops were occasionally called. Many rents went unpaid and were forgiven. George sometimes bought airline tickets to the Lower 48 for tenants who were hard pressed. The price of heating oil was brutal to his bottom line. He spent four years revamping the heating system and insulating the old structure.
His properties provided low-cost housing for those in need of it. Most moved on when times got better for them but others stayed on for years. Nome draws a lot of dreams and footloose travelers who arrive here with no money, no connections and no plan. It is downright dangerous to be homeless in the winter. Three words: “I know George” got many a couch to sleep on for a scant few days.
George was a friend to many gold miners. Some arrived with no money or connections. They too often found their way to Tyvek Manor, looking for a room on the cheap. George would help them connect with other miners and find their way to a successful season.
George’s exuberant energy and optimism would get him through all adversity.
He is survived by his sisters Mary Foot (and her sons) of Kalispell and Laura Straw of Missoula, Montana and her son Steven. He’s also survived by many tenants and by a generation of Nome school children who rode George’s bus home on the blue route. Many of them have good memories of that rowdy schoolbus. When we drove George to the hospital that night, he asked to drive up to Nome-Beltz and cover the old blue route one last time, through Icy View and down Front Street. The last words I heard him say were “There is always something interesting to see on Front Street.”
George was famous all over Nome. You could not get around him. He was 64.