An American patriot and military man through and through, Webster’s fascination for flying dated back to his childhood and the exposure he had to airplanes as the son of a naval pilot.
As a U.S. Army pilot stationed in Vietnam, GR Webster commanded the Mustang Gun Ship Platoon of the 68th Assault Helicopter Company. His repeated acts of valor earned him dozens of military awards, including two Distinguished Flying Crosses, The Bronze Star, The Cross of Gallantry and The Purple Heart.
After completing his military service in Vietnam, Webster enrolled at the University of Chicago, where he earned a Masters Degree in Business. His education and well-honed leadership qualities gave him the footing from which to rise to the post of CEO of Givaudan Fragrances, a firm established in the 18th century that maintains offices in Paris, Geneva and New York.
In 2000, Webster was elected to the Fragrance Foundation’s Hall of Fame. That same year he retired, at age 55, to take up portrait painting, raise a family and pursue his passion for collecting antique and vintage toy aircraft. He also founded The Miniature Aircraft Quarterly, a full-color magazine with an auxiliary club membership for toy airplane aficionados.
Webster amassed one of the most comprehensive collections of toy airplanes and aviation models ever assembled, containing numerous rarities made in Germany, France, Japan, Great Britain and the United States. In 2012, Webster decided to sell portions of his vast collection in a series of auctions at Stephenson’s, Morphy’s, Affiliated Auctions, Lloyd Ralston Gallery and Vectis Auctions. At the time, Webster – ever the analytical businessman – explained that he consigned to five different auction houses because he felt particular types of toys, such as tinplate, cast iron, die cast or identification models, would be best served by companies that had category-specific experience.
“GR also felt strongly about sharing his knowledge of aviation toys with others, which he did in the form of two reference books and countless articles,” said Catherine Saunders-Watson, editor-in-chief of Auction Central News and Toy Collector Magazine. “He had a mind like a steel trap when it came to remembering details, and he was such a gifted writer, his manuscripts were virtually letter perfect. GR was a unique talent and an extraordinary achiever. His was a life well led.”
GR Webster remained an active pilot until his illness was discovered in November. He could fly anything with wings or propellers. For eight years following his retirement, Webster owned and flew a Lake Turbo Renegade amphibious flying boat that was kept at his second home in Polk County, Florida. He piloted his flying boat all over the United States, landing it on water and all types of terrain.
“In his typical style, GR downplayed his medical diagnosis and the challenge he faced,” Saunders-Watson said. “In mid December he notified his friends of his condition, but instead of focusing on his own misfortune, he expressed gratitude for the 45 extra years of life he had been given after he and his gunship crew were shot at and wounded in Vietnam. GR was made of strong stuff, and he didn’t give up without a fight. He received the best of care at a hospital in Nice, France, and held out hope to the very end that he would overcome the enemy. His many friends will miss him greatly.”
A funeral mass will be held on Saturday, January 11 at 10 a.m. at the Cathedrale de Grasse, Place du Petit Puit, 06130 Grasse, France. The interment will be for family only on Monday, January 13. In the United States, a memorial gathering to celebrate the life of Geoffrey “GR” Webster will be held on Saturday, January 18 at 1 p.m. at the historic Ramon Theater, 15 E. Wall Street in Frostproof, Florida 33843. Flowers are welcome at either service. Alternatively, the family suggests that donations be made to a favorite charity in GR Webster’s memory.
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