The Legacy of George Geissbuhler

A tragic death underscores the outsized charitable contributions and generosity of one of Pelotonia’s most devoted road warriors.

Chris Gaitten
George Geissbuhler riding in Pelotonia

In 2019, George Geissbuhler completed the longest Pelotonia ride—200 miles of cycling through the early August heat. He was two months shy of his 71st birthday, one of the oldest riders to finish the full course—and the oldest to conquer the grueling Reynolds Road Hill route, according to his wife, Michelle. It was his final Pelotonia.

On Oct. 26, 2020, George died of an infection, seven months after a freak accident left him paralyzed. After the 2019 ride, he’d been treated for prostate cancer, and the 2020 event would have been his first as a survivor.

The way friends and family talk about him, he was the personification of Pelotonia: generous, civic-minded, athletic and an avid cyclist. He and a few buddies, calling themselves the Six O’Clock Cycling Club, gathered at dawn nearly every day for breakfast trips upwards of 50 miles. In harsh weather, they retreated to the stationary machines in George’s Worthington home for “Agony of the Basement,” says club member Tom Hardin. Hence, George excelled in Pelotonia, riding 1,860 miles in a dozen years, though that’s only a hint of his legacy.

George Geissbuhler, his daughter, Jill, and her two children after Pelotonia 2015

“He had a lot of energy, and he just found a lot of ways to help others with it,” Michelle says. She and George have an adult son and daughter, Blake and Anna, and he had a daughter, Jill, from his first marriage. He was a successful investment banker at Sweney Cartwright & Co. for 45 years, and as Hardin puts it, “He knew how to use money to do good things.”

Through Pelotonia, which benefits cancer research at Ohio State, George raised $120,183 over the years, matching $5,000 of his annual fundraising total with his own money. In 2012, he and Michelle also began donating to Flying Horse Farms, a camp in Mount Gilead for children with serious illnesses, and they provided financing to build its HappyTimes Woodshop in 2019.

George Geissbuhler, far left, at the unveiling of the HappyTimes Woodshop alongside Flying Farms CEO Nichole Dunn, donors Phillip and Barbara Derrow, and camp director Dani Wilkinson.

George was passionate about woodworking, and he put his creations to good use, too, especially following his 2016 retirement. For Flying Horse Farms, he made nametags, luggage tags, and centerpieces and party favors for fundraisers. Everything he did was to provide memories and experiences for campers, says camp director Dani Wilkinson, calling it “the beauty of his generosity.”

He volunteered at the Furniture Bank of Central Ohio, making chests of drawers for families in need and converting discarded dorm furniture into kitchen utensils. He fashioned wooden blocks for kids at the Ronald McDonald House, where he also volunteered as a maintenance worker. An OSU alum, George crafted plaques annually for every member of his beloved marching band, customized with their photos. Every summer, he and Michelle catered a lunch for the musicians on the final day of practice.

As part of his love of woodworking, he helped friends and neighbors cut down trees—“have chainsaw, will travel” was his slogan, Michelle says. (They were co-winners, with another couple, of Worthington’s Good Neighbor Award in 2019.) When the accident happened in March 2020, he was chopping up a fallen tree for firewood, and another dead tree fell and landed on him. He survived, but after making some progress, he succumbed to a severe respiratory infection.

Michelle Geissbuhler with a wooden piece created from a spalted box elder by Scott Gordon in memory of Michelle's husband, George Geissbuhler.

He had cultivated a wide and ever-growing social circle—“For him, making friends was as natural as breathing,” his daughter Anna says—so his loss leaves a void for many people. Ed Thompson, a longtime friend who introduced George to Michelle, says that when George found out Thompson was in rehab after having a brain tumor removed, George came to have lunch with him every week. “He just has the unique ability to be there when people need some help.”

To honor him and replace funds he would have raised, Anna will take his place in Pelotonia in August. She lives in San Francisco and plans to do a virtual ride with friends, probably in the hills north of the Golden Gate Bridge. She reached out to her co-workers when she started fundraising to tell them about his story, and she mentioned that they might own wooden coasters made by him—he’d sent 200 branded with their company’s logo. Her co-workers began posting photos and telling her they used them every day. Such was George’s power—linking others in unexpected, beneficial ways. Anna has already exceeded her goal of $5,000 and plans to match it, just like he would have.

For more about George, visit georgeforgood.org. To donate to Anna’s ride, go to pelotonia.org/profile/AG450497.