Chesterton Tribune



George Cairns dies at age 72

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George Cairns, of Chesterton, died on Friday, December 12, 2014, of a brain tumor diagnosed in August of this year. He was 72 years old. George is survived by Nancy, his wife of almost 46 years; his sister Betty Long and nieces Megan and Erin of Cape Coral, Florida; and his adopted daughter Cher Cairns of Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

George was born in Sunbury, Pennsylvania; the family moved to Willingboro, New Jersey before his senior year of high school. He earned a bachelorís degree at Rutgers University, Camden, and a Masterís and Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Emory University. He later took additional course work and completed an APA-approved internship in clinical psychology, which he practiced until moving to Chicago in 1986. He received a Master of Divinity from Chicago Theological Seminary (CTS) and, after ordination in 1989, became Minister of Urban Mission at the Peopleís Church of Chicago. In that role, he worked with homeless and marginally housed people and those with chronic mental illness. He later returned to CTS to teach practical theology and prayer and direct the Doctor of Ministry program. After he retired in 2002, he continued as Research Professor, teaching one class a year and advising Doctor of Ministry students. At his death, he was a member of St. Johnís UNITED Church in Chesterton and the First Unitarian Church of Hobart.

Always a brilliant and creative thinker, George had many interests and hobbies, including photography, the ideas of Gregory Bateson, film-making, and blues and folk music (he was a member of two ukulele bands in northwest Indiana). He studied and practiced meditative techniques, including Mongolian overtone chanting and centering prayer, and was passionately involved with Native American religious practice and contemplative spirituality in both the Christian and Buddhist traditions. His dedication to social justice work guided by his contemplative practice touched many lives. He served as a volunteer chaplain teaching centering prayer at the Michigan City, Indiana prison, where he facilitated a centering prayer group open to all who wished to join. The fact that he suffered significant bouts of depression for most of his life make his many accomplishments even more remarkable.

Most important, George was loved by his family and friends for his compassion and his commitment to othersí well-being. As a friend recently said of him, he went out of his way for anyone he thought needed help, including complete strangers. He was a very creative teacher whom students praise for his commitment to their learning and his interest in them as individuals He was greatly loved and is greatly missed.

George did not want a traditional funeral or memorial service, preferring that his family and friends get together for an evening of shared memories, home-made music, conviviality, and good food and drink. Arrangements will be made for such an evening early in the new year.

His friends and family would like to thank his doctors and other staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Porter Regional Hospital and the staff of Addison Pointe for the excellent care he received. We ask that, in lieu of flowers, those who wish to honor his life contribute to St. Johnís United Church, Chesterton; First Unitarian Church, Hobart; or the American Cancer Society. To send an online condolence, please visit



Posted 12/16/2014