With the death last week of Bass Harbor builder, designer, poet, photographer and part-time philosopher George Gekas, 74, after a long illness, Mount Desert Island has lost a large measure of its cool.
George was a multitalented man, but it was his unusual perspective on house design that has left his most visible legacy here on MDI.
He was born in York June 11, 1947, the son of Anthony and Irene Gekas. When he was still a boy, the family moved to Tilton, N.H., where his dad ran a pizza place.
When George graduated from high school, he joined the Coast Guard. He spent most of his tour at a remote base in Greenland, where he first took up photography.
In 1971, his final post brought him to Southwest Harbor, where he met recent MDI High School graduate Sharon Arnold, the daughter of Indian Point salvage yard proprietor Charlie Arnold.
The couple have been virtually inseparable ever since, eventually building a house in Bass Harbor and raising a series of adored beagles. George and Sharon officially married in 1986, and at some point George passed on his love of photography and his darkroom to his wife, who has made the art a career.
Early on, George took what carpentry jobs he could find, learning the trade as he went. He credited Emory Smith for being a true mentor. After a while he started designing a few renovations and additions of his own, and customers responded well to his clean, contemporary lines and imaginative use of space and ambient light. After a few years he struck out on his own as George Gekas Building
Arguably the best-known Gekas creation on MDI is K2 on Northern Neck Road. It is built on a narrow wedge of property and Design. between the dirt road and Long Pond. His solution for the odd lot he had to work with is a masterpiece of creative beauty with one corner of the natural wood-sided building, slicing through the forest like a giant axe blade. In 2011, K2 was featured in Maine Home and Design.
George’s final project, finished in 2016, has a strong Japanese influence — a two story rectangle with a subtly sloped roof and black metal siding, where ambient light streams through large southern windows, soaking warmth into the concrete floors. George liked to call it a “little black dress of a house.”
George and Sharon continued to enjoy one another’s company and that of their most recent beagle, the cantankerous Cal, when increasing ill health and the pandemic made work outside the home a dangerous proposition. When Cal died last year, some of George’s strong lust for life faded and Sharon says she thinks when death caught up with him, Dec. 6, he was ready to go.
In addition to his wife, George is survived by his two sisters, Stephanie Storey and Roxanne Vogel, and his sisters-in-law, Gayle Arnold Tucker and her husband, Troy, Charlene and Cary Butterfield and many nieces and nephews.
No service is planned, but those who wish may remember George by sending donations to the Southwest Harbor Public Library at P.O. Box 157, Southwest Harbor, ME 04679-0157.