Mary A. George; Entertained Overseas as Diplomat's Wife

Mary George was skilled at setting up households in dangerous locations.
Mary George was skilled at setting up households in dangerous locations. (Family Photo)
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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Mary Atkinson George, 71, who lived the life of a diplomat's wife during the Cold War era and who was known for her entertaining and ability to cope under difficult circumstances, died May 31 at Sibley Memorial Hospital of complications from surgery.

Three years after joining the Central Intelligence Agency in 1957, she married Clair E. George, an early recruit to the agency. She left the CIA to accompany him to posts in the U.S. embassies in Paris; Bamako, Mali; and New Delhi.

While briefly living in Beirut in 1975, she and her two young daughters were airlifted out at the beginning of the Lebanese civil war. Her final overseas post with her husband was in Athens, where he replaced assassinated CIA station chief Richard Welch.

Mrs. George knew how to establish households in dangerous circumstances, which made her a valued resource to other State Department and CIA families, her husband said.

"She had some rough patches," he said, "but she took to" the life of a diplomat's spouse. Mrs. George returned to Bethesda in 1979.

"She was the consummate diplomat's wife in a different era, when the wife's job was to be gracious and to entertain," said a daughter, Leslie George Miranda.

Mrs. George, known for her energetic personality and deep laughter, enjoyed entertaining. In a February Forbes magazine article, columnist James Brady recalled Cold War days in Paris with the Georges.

"He and Mary George in Paris regularly served cocktails to Iron Curtain and African diplomats, organized a New York black-tie party for a score of us at a local bistro, where we all danced and sang and tossed party favors at midnight," Brady wrote.

Mrs. George was born in Charlottesville and graduated from the Tower Hill School in Wilmington, Del., and Centenary College in New Jersey.

She was active in the Chevy Chase Club and charitable organizations. Her two favorite hobbies were bridge and tennis.

Mrs. George also loved dancing and could do styles as varied as ballroom dancing and the jitterbug.

Survivors, in addition to her daughter, of the District, and her husband of 48 years, of Bethesda; include another daughter, Ann George Davies of Wayne, Pa.; a brother; and three grandchildren.

-- Yvonne Shinhoster Lamb

© 2008 The Washington Post Company