George Dolan: Cherished Friend and Community Advocate
George was well-known in his community for his integrity and dedication to helping everyone around him.
George Dolan of Richmond, Virginia, knew he had retinitis pigmentosa (RP) most of this life. George’s RP eventually progressed enough that he went totally blind, but he didn’t let his vision loss prevent him from staying active with the Foundation Fighting Blindness and in his community.
Once you became friends with George, you were his friend for life and he cherished you dearly. He’s one of the best individuals I’ve had the honor of knowing.
George was a computer systems analyst for Virginia’s Department of Agriculture until he was 40 years old. After that, he became incredibly involved with the Foundation Fighting Blindness to fill his time. George was a natural networker and had a large circle of friends nearby and from across the country. He would contact those friends to help raise funds for the Foundation and increase awareness for blinding retinal diseases like his.
In 1975, George became the founder and treasurer of the Foundation Fighting Blindness Central Virginia Chapter and remained in that position until 2019. George’s wife, Irene, was the secretary for many of those years as well. As George's vision declined over the years, Irene became essential in helping George to continue with the many duties associated with being treasurer.
The Central Virginia chapter would have annual summer picnic gatherings for chapter members, host VisionWalks and raffles to fundraise for vital research, and participate in several local parades to raise awareness about the Foundation in their community. The Central Virginia chapter raised over $1 million for the Foundation since its inception.
One of those committed Central Virginia chapter members was Carroll Hudson. Carroll met George in 1990 after he found a Foundation brochure at the front desk of his ophthalmologist’s office. Carroll has choroideremia, so he contacted the Foundation, and George was the contact who answered his call.
“He had such a nice way about him that would make everyone comfortable immediately,” says Carroll. “We became fast friends and would talk two or three times a week about how we dealt with our vision loss day-to-day. It’s frustrating to be blind at times, but it was nice to have someone else who understood exactly what I was going through.”
Other than his dedication to the Foundation, George was a faithful member of First Free Will Baptist Church for almost 60 years and organized the Trailblazers, a club for seniors at the church. George was also known as an avid NASCAR fan. Even after losing his sight, he continued to enjoy listening to races.
George was recognized for all his efforts by the Foundation and the Richmond community. In 1982, George was named the National Volunteer of the Year for the Foundation and received the Times-Dispatch Community Service Award.
“He was a genuinely great companion and a tireless worker,” says Carroll. “Once you became friends with George, you were his friend for life and he cherished you dearly. He’s one of the best individuals I’ve had the honor of knowing.”
George passed away on January 1, 2021, at 83 years old, and lived a remarkable life that will leave a legacy at the Foundation Fighting Blindness.