A Tribute to Rhode Island Numismatist, and My Dear Friend, George H. Champlin IV
Each of us has a series of relationships within our lives that take us from our earliest days to our last. They run the spectrum of family, close friends, acquaintances and business associates and in these we sometimes get to witness a glimpse, or more, of the private side of each person. Most of these relationships are cordial or perhaps warm, but the rare ones bridge the gap between people to leave one fulfilled and feeling like there is something else there, as well.
In my lifetime I can state that George H. Champlin IV was one of those rare folks who bridged the gap.
George passed away suddenly, unexpectedly and of natural causes at the age of 37 on February 22, 2020. I was traveling when he passed and stopped into his shop that Tuesday expecting to exchange greetings and to talk with him when his father told me the tragic news. I’ve known George and his father for over two decades and together they ran Westerly Enterprises in Westerly, RI.
George behind the counter of Westerly Enterprises several summers ago.
Westerly Enterprises is a small-town coin and jewelry shop with high-end integrity and George’s warm demeanor and passion for educating his customers was obvious to all who walked through the doors. Over the years we spent many hours discussing trends in numismatics, current events, his love of fishing or what my daughters were doing in school. He was wildly intelligent across a broad range of subjects, studied ancient coinage and had a personal collection of superb British pieces representing his favorite monarchs. He was also fascinated by my stories of competitive fencing and his face would light up when I recalled my bouts. On many visits I would have my girls with me and he would allow them free access through the shop, spoke easily with them and would make certain they picked out some costume jewelry to take home as his gift.
We entered into many handshake business agreements and never hit a snag, but I typically went there more with the idea of conversation or numismatic show-and-tell then I did for business. His show-and-tell ranged from ancient Greek coinage to original EF hobo nickels to interesting ephemera or collecting supplies.
Old Meghrig page showing the 1932 Washington quarter as a commemorative coin.
The last time we spoke was about two-weeks before he passed and he asked if I could bring in a specific Barber half dollar that I own. He had seen the coin in-hand previously, but he adored it so I went to the bank and set aside a small group of pieces to bring to his shop after my trip. We shared a firm handshake and as I left the shop his booming voice told me he would see me soon. I never did get to share those coins with George, but instead attended a visitation on Friday evening followed the next morning by a Celebration of Life in a church overflowing with locals and that closed with the hymn “We Three Kings of Orient Are” amongst many fallen tears. After the interment I went home, spread out the small group of coins I had taken out of the safe deposit box to share with George and took a photo in the thin February sun.
A small group of coins to share with George, just after the interment and before they returned to the safe deposit box.
There are no words to adequately express my shock and sorrow over George's sudden passing. In my experience, George was a humble, intelligent, vibrant, helpful and outgoing individual. The type of person you would like to know, you would like to have as a friend and you would like to emulate. I will miss him greatly, but will never forget his sincere smile, booming voice and kind spirit. It is my hope that all of George's loved ones might find some portion of peace in the memory of his smile and laughter.
In honor of the memory of Cpl. Michael E. Thompson