Tributes from the family and friends

    • Good morning and thank you all for being here today to honor George. I am Francis, George was our older brother. George was the 3rd of 13 siblings.

      George was 6 years old when our father and mother divorced. Our father remarried after their divore. George grew up with his step mother, Esther Amponsah, 2 brothers from his mother, including me, and 6 step brothers and sisters.

      Though growing up with a step mother had its own challenges, George’s drive, determination and optimism sailed him through all those storms to become one of the brightest students in his classes and ultimately became the first university graduate in the family. And of course, the only medical doctor in the family.
      Our dad, who owned 2 pharmacy shops in Accra, had hoped George would study Pharmacy and take over his pharmacy shops in the future. Though he was disappointed George did not choose that path, he was nevertheless proud of his academic achievements. We brothers and sisters were too.

      George was a hard worker and generous. I remember the years when he used to travel to the UK for school vacation work. George always returned with suitcases full of gifts for every member in the family. That sometimes meant up to 80% of the content of his suitcases. Gifts bought from his hard earned cash.

      George sometimes explains things away in a funny way. I remember in 2005 or so when he came to visit me in the Netherlands. We decided to drive to Paris for a long weekend. We took turns driving. While driving in the city center of Paris, George would drive through, sometimes up to 4 consecutive red traffic lights. I would ask, George, did you see that the traffic light was red? He would ask, was it red? I did not see it. He would add, it’s their fault- they made the traffic lights too small and therefore I can't see them.

      Last November when I was on visit, George had received treatment at the hospital and was discharged. For some time, George and Celine had been sleeping in the study room downstairs because he was too weak to climb the stairs up to their bedroom. But as time went by, he progressed in his recovery. Therefore Celine and George decided to move upstairs into their bedroom. Even with our support, he realized it was a monumental task climbing the steps up. I offered to carry him upstairs. He hesitated and stared a bit at me. I believe George was thinking at that moment, Charlie, your muscles are not as big as what I used to have therefore I don’t trust you.
      After a few moments, we saw the hallmarks of George on display again - with immense drive and determination he climbed the steps all the way up with little help from us.

      Probably the best and most intimate time I have ever had with George was last November. We decided to introduce daily walks around the house into George's daily routine. Because he was too weak to walk alone, I had the privilege to help him do that walk. And that meant holding him close to me while we walked. Arm in arm. Very close to each other. I could feel his warmth and energy that translated into some unique bond I had never felt with George. It felt so good doing that walk together. Being a bit selfish, I proposed we do that at least 2 times a day, partly for me to have that beautiful experience again and again. Unfortunately, his energy level did not accommodate that.

      But most of all, I had the most intense hug with him before I departed for the Netherlands last December 4th. I cherished that so much.

      Like many other big families, ours too have had its ups and downs. Especially since the passing of our father and mothers, there have been divisions between the siblings. But George’s passing is uniting us again.

      Therefore, today I stand on behalf of all the siblings to say, we love you so much, George. You are and will be in our hearts forever. I know you are now hanging around with Ampomah, your favorite sister who passed when we were young. And sitting together with our dad sipping glasses of beer again.

      You are in a good place, brother. Again, on behalf of all the siblings, Rest in Peace. Till we meet again.

      Thank you.

      Francis Ofori-Amanfo ,

    • Hi everyone, thank you for coming to honor the memory of my dad and to give your final farewell’s. It’s difficult to put everything I felt for my dad into words and to truly capture everything that he was to me, but I’ll give it my best shot.

Growing up I always thought my dad was the tallest, strongest guy in the world like many kids do of their father. But as the years passed on and as I eventually grew taller than him, even though he would be hard pressed to admit it, I began to realize his physical attributes would be last on the list of the things that made him great.

      My dad’s greatest gift was the way he would be able to lift the people up around him. He had the unique ability of giving others the confidence to believe they could achieve remarkable things. Time and time again from both family and colleagues I hear about how my dad gave them the confidence to take their career to the next level or perform a medical procedure they didn’t think they could do. To have someone like this as a parent is a gift that I will always treasure and part of what made me who I am today. I remember back in high school when I was starting to think about applying to college, he asked me where I wanted to go to school. I said, “Well I don’t know, I want to go somewhere warm, NY is too cold, and I want to try living somewhere else.” I remember my dad then said in the most casual way possible with his trademark smile on his face, “Ok, then why don’t you go to Princeton?” This memory sticks out to me because it seems that it didn’t even occur to him that I wouldn’t get in. Keep in mind Princeton is the hardest college to get into in the country. His sheer optimism and belief in me are what motivates me every day, especially at times when I am faced with a challenge I don’t think I can overcome. It’s devastating that I will never be able to have conversations like this with him again, but I take comfort in the fact that I know he will never stop believing in me and he will never stop believing in everyone in this room as well.

      It’s upsetting to me that he will miss some important milestones in my brother’s and I lives, but at the same time I struggle to find an area in life where my Dad didn’t live to the fullest. It helps me sleep at night knowing that he can now rest pain free, without any regrets. Not everyone can say that in their lifetime they managed to save thousands of lives or left the world better than when they found it. The world will surely miss his healing hands, but with the amount of people he has taught to heal, his gift will live on forever. As I end my tribute I would like to leave you with these few words from Romans 13:8 “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.”

      Francis Ofori-Amanfo ,

    • My dad was one of the most amazing people I've ever had the gift to have as a father. There have been more people in my house than ever but it still feels empty without dad. He has left a big hole in not only my life but the world. When I asked mom if she was ok, my mom told me that she sees my dad in me and that makes her feel OK. This is when I realized that me, Chris and Francis were meant to fill the hole that dad had left. My dad is one of the most successful people I know in my life, which is why I will live up to his legacy and standard. I may be able to fill that hole but nobody could replace my dad.

      Justine Ofori-Amanfo,

    • Your memory is a keepsake, with which we'll never part. God has you in his keeping, I have you in my heart.
      Bonnie Dodd

      Odo yewu, my G as I affectionately called you. This tribute is especially hard for me to write, at the beginning of last year, we were planning our vow renewal. We talked about flowers, the venue and even picked a date in November. I started thinking about my vows, I had so much that I wanted tell you. The life we've shared, the love we have for each other and the beautiful home we created together. I was looking forward to telling our friends and loved ones about how we met, how charming you were and how proud I am to be your wife but as life will have it, here I am reading a tribute to you instead.

      I do not have the words to describe the pain I feel, I wake up in disbelief sometimes even though I stood right next to you and held your hand when you took your last breath. The scene was all too familiar, I was in the same place 14yrs ago when I watched my mother take her last breath. The difference then was that I had you to lean on. You were my rock, my best friend, my protector and my heart. You made me smile again and gave me a beautiful life and family. You were supportive, dedicated and highly vested in everything I did. You helped me achieve my dreams both big and small.

      You were the best dad to our boys, you loved and cared so deeply about everything they did. Our best moments were just sitting in the backyard, listening to music and talking. Your calm demeanor was golden and sometimes a little irritable as I was unable to get you to argue with me.

      Our lives will never be the same without you. We however will hold on dearly to every memory, our after-midnight teatime together, you calling out "hey boys" as you come through the back door on your way up the stairs from work, making FaceTime calls to help the boys with homework when on call. I could go on and on.

      I love you dearly George, I'm so proud to have had you in my life. Not many people have the opportunity to meet an angel and I was so lucky to have been married to one. Your memory will live on forever. This is not goodbye my love, it’s seen you again for as the Bible says in I Thessalonians 4:13‭-‬14 "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus."

      Sleep well my G, until we meet again. ‬‬‬

      Celine Ofori-Amanfo,

    • My name is Robert Pass and I am the system chief of pediatric cardiology at Mount Sinai. I have known George Ofori for 24 years. We were friends for a long time, I am profoundly honored to speak to you this morning and, like you, I just loved the guy.

      Despite this, it’s important to realize that he was not someone of whom it could be said, ‘Well, everyone loved him”. Yes, certainly, most of us loved him and the people in this church certainly all did. But some did not. Sometimes in life you just have to take a stand, express an unpopular opinion even if you know that some may not like you for that opinion if you believe you are right and the cause important enough. George knew that. As good friends as we were, we did not always agree and we would sometimes argue as it seemed that there was never a patient with a tough problem that he did not have a great solution for that somehow involved me doing something extremely dangerous. I would say, “George, I am not going to be this patient’s executioner” but he would just smile that smile and after enough cajoling, I would just do it cause you knew he was right.

      I have told many some of my best George stories – I think it is a sign of aging that I seem to tell the same ones over and over. There is the story about how George would compete with me over silly electronic gadgets. For a period of about 5 years in the early 2000s it seemed that whichever new electronic toy I purchased and proudly brought to work, George would arrive at work 2 weeks later with the slightly better version of what I had bought. Whether it was the latest palm pilot or Nikon DSLR or Dell laptop, it seemed that he always found the very next better version and would take great pains to explain why what he bought was 1% better than mine. This continued on even to present times. As recently as the summer he and I argued for at least 15 minutes as he tried to convince me that his beloved Pepsi Max had better flavor than Diet Coke. As if it were yesterday, I can hear him saying to me: “I have the MAXIMUM FLAVOR Rob” …..

      I don’t want to talk too much about what a good doctor he was and how good a program director he was but he was exceptional at both, saving the lives of 1000’s of children not only during emergencies but even more by the systems he established that provided a safe environment where very ill infants and children would receive world class nursing and medical. Let me tell you, that is not easy and even as we are sitting here at this moment and remembering our friend and loved one, let no one forget that the children lying in beds in the ICUs at Duke University, Montefiore and Mount Sinai right now, at this very second are safer today because of his efforts. I well recall how he made the very difficult decision to leave Columbia when he was a young man despite the fact that he was loved there and likely would have a big career at Columbia. He did that because he realized that in order to be recognized as a real CICU doctor, he had to care for newborns after cardiac surgery and that as not possible at Columbia due to the structure that has existed there. He excelled in every role he had after Columbia as he rose in the ranks. And I won’t comment too long on what a magnificent mentor he was to so many people –it is remarkable to consider how many people looked up to this man because of all he achieved and how he gave so freely of himself, always making anyone he spoke with feel as if they were the most important person he knew.

      Just 2 weeks prior to his passing at a family meeting with his very large care team George was given very dark news regarding his prognosis and yet, in typical George fashion, despite being so very debilitated and in terrible pain, he sat up in his bed, gathered his strength and stated in a soft but very clear voice: “Doctors, there is no reason to assume that the outcome will be any different if we do not change course and do something different”. Imagine the amount of optimism and courage that it took this master physician, superb clinician who knew as much or more medicine than any doctor or nurse in that room to turn to the team and say that there must be a way. There must be an option.

      And just in case anyone in that room did not understand why he wanted them to figure out a way, George explained to the people there who did not know him why he wanted to live and why this fight was worth it. He started by recounting for us his journey from Ghana to the United States to be one of the first doctors in the United States to be double boarded in cardiology and critical care and explained that he did this because he wanted to be taken seriously and known to be special for his expertise and provide the best care possible. He then spoke of how much he loved training fellows and caring for children who were critically sick with heart disease. He spoke of his mission work and how he wished to do more of it, particularly in his home country of Ghana after all he had already achieved. Then he took Celine’s hand and spoke of how much he loved Francis and Justin and Christian and how much he wished to spend time with them all and how proud he was of them. And finally, he told everyone in that room how much he loved Celine and how they simply needed more time together. This man, whose optimism was always so central to everyone’s thoughts about him – he never lost that optimism. To his last breath, he fought and fought and fought – never give up – always try your best – as the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas once wrote – “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light”. I thought to myself as I listened to him speak that day how proud I was to call him my friend. This man was NOT a crazy optimist he was just a plain optimist with an unbending will for life, always seeing the positive in any situation. And you know something funny? All the medical professionals in that room left that meeting, despite understanding medically understanding that his prognosis was very poor, being more optimistic and motivated for George. Everyone felt the positivity that all of us knew and loved in him and to a very real degree WAS Dr. George Ofori. There is a powerful lesson there for sure.

      I offer to you all my most sincere condolences, particularly to his beautiful family including his wonderful brother Francis. To George’s sons, Francis, Justin and Christian – we all loved your father because he was a realistic optimist of the highest order and that optimism made all of us more optimistic and better people. I hope you know how much he loved you and how much we all loved him and I hope and pray that his positive attitude, his example of always treating others with respect and of living with integrity, will be memories that you hold dear your entire lives. And to Celine, you were his rock and support and your strength and courage in the face of this difficult time was every bit as strong as his and similarly inspiring to all of us and, in that way, you were a perfect match for him. He was lucky to have you in his life and he was smart enough to know it.

      I hope that with time you will gain comfort when you think of that man with the handsome and wide smile who could be so funny and push all our buttons so well. Like you, I will miss him for the remainder of my days but we will all always be inspired by his example.

      Robert H. Pass, MD,

      Best friend and colleague