The Herald News, Tuesday, December 3, 2013 – Page A1

Fall River – Perhaps “inspirational” was the word that best described Loretta George, according to city leaders, who shared unanimous admiration for the businesswoman who died Saturday in her home city at Charlton Memorial Hospital.

“If she was with you, she was with you to the end of the earth. She was fascinating,” said Monte Ferris, owner of the Venus de Milo restaurant.

Ferris knew and treasured the George family, their history dating to the days when his father managed the bowling lanes Empire Alleys for the late Peter George — Loretta’s father — on the same property where the Venus now stands on Route 6 in Swansea.

George set a string of firsts, being the first female president of Fall River’s Chamber of Commerce and Fall River Office of Economic Development, and general chairwoman of the United Way in the first year to raise $1 million in 1980. She produced a remarkable standard for others to join and follow.

She helped found the Bristol Community College Foundation and Fall River Celebrates America among her many community endeavors.

Of Lebanese decent and devoted to her St. Anthony of the Desert Church, her contributions to the Catholic Maronite Diocese helped her become the first woman recipient of the Gold Massabki Medal.

“She had tremendous energy. She was a worker,” said Ferris, adding that if George joined — and usually headed — any committee, “she would work as hard as the hardest-working person on that committee.

“That’s inspiring,” Ferris said.

“I think she was really singularly focused on what was good for the community in general,” said Zia Eftakhar, longtime head of Lightolier, which became Philips Lighting in 2008. George worked for Lightolier as administrative manager.

Her accomplishments before retiring in 1995 after 36 years at Lightolier were many; but they hardly ended there, said Eftakhar, who retired as company chairman early this year.

In 1994, when Lightolier brought its corporate headquarters and its manufacturing division from New York to Fall River, bringing with it about 200 high-level jobs, Eftekhar said it was “to a large extent her efforts as a citizen of Fall River that influenced me to make that decision.”

Lightolier, a longtime leader in renewable lighting technology, at that time had nearly 3,000 employees throughout the country.

“Our relationship with the city of Fall River was the strongest relationship in 14 states and many more cities. Nowhere did we have as deep a relationship as we did in