We lost our friend and colleague George DeMarchi this week. The suddenness and finality are still shocking.
As the messages of condolence and support have come flooding in from all corners of George’s business network, I’ve been reading and re-reading them, looking for patterns and meaning. It’s clear that he impacted many people in many positive ways. The most common words used are mentor and friend.
George was my partner, but not initially. We both started prepaid businesses in 2002 and competed head-to-head for more than a decade. Over time, as we found ourselves at the same events and on the same flights, we developed a relationship. What started with guarded conversations in shared taxis evolved into a true friendship and a common vision for the industry and our respective businesses. Just as importantly, we bonded over our views of parenthood and family. With that strong basis and our deep mutual respect, when the opportunity presented itself for us to create Payment Source, the decision was easy and comfortable.
So now, six years later, George has left us, and I’m trying to wrap my mind around the man and his legacy. It’s taken some days, but I’ve come to understand something very key:
George was a Builder.
Perhaps it stemmed from the work ethic he learnt from his father and uncles who were hard-working bricklayers making their way in a new country. Every childhood story I have ever heard from George involved him on the jobsite carrying bricks and blocks.
George was a builder of companies, a serial entrepreneur. And along the way, he gathered a body of knowledge and experience, and a team of smart people who would follow him into the next venture. In the business world, his pinnacle achievement and source of greatest pride was Payment Source. Our conversations over the last months and weeks inevitably turned to the company, and George repeatedly expressed his pride and satisfaction in the company and the team we have built.
George was a builder of people. His relentless curiosity and unlimited energy for our business would regularly lead to him to sit with the first person or the last person in the office, drilling them about the details of their work, asking them things, showing them things, learning about them, their kids, their families. George was always ready to share his knowledge and experience and ideas, and he loved nothing more than engaging with staff and seeing them grow and develop. George’s companies always provided Friday lunch, which he viewed as critical for deepening relationships and opening up communications. He loved using the lunches to get to know people better, to celebrate the wins and to hold court on the topic of the day. However, George’s concern for staff went way beyond their work – he was deeply concerned about their personal situations. He insisted that everyone be paid a Living Wage and he was the driving force behind our implementation of a matching RRSP plan. George was also the driver behind our internal education programs, in particular the outstanding program for our management team. He was so proud that Payment Source was awarded ‘Canada’s Best Managed’ in 2020 for the third year in a row.
George was a builder of relationships. His network is deep and wide and he maintained close relationships with many people from his days at Queen’s University through his time at Ericsson, Bell Mobility, Rent Express/Roadpost, Go Prepaid, Now Prepay and of course, Payment Source. George was always good about staying in touch and did so in a very genuine way. His overwhelming passion for lacrosse meant that anyone who shared that passion had an entry on his speed-dial list.
But of all the things George built, nothing mattered more to him than his children, Alex and Justin. His pride in them knew no bounds. He and his wife, Nora, imbued their children with work ethic, passion and concern for others. Alex and Justin have grown into wonderful compassionate adults.
In 2015 George and Nora downsized their city residence and purchased a historic rural property with a remarkable view of forest, fields and a lake. George, Nora and family became stewards of the land, cultivating indigenous plants and trees and tending the land. The land quickly became George’s refuge and his favourite place to be with his family. It also became his endless joyful building project. George had plans for clearing new walking trails, new buildings, renovating the house and continuing to build rock walls and split-rail fences. His battles with poison ivy are legendary. He persisted in working right through his illness - both at Payment Source and on the land. I like the symmetry of George carrying bricks and blocks for his father and uncles when he was a young man, and then near the end of his days, carrying rocks from the forest to build a rock wall for his descendants.
In our last conversation, George told me that he was content and at peace with how he was leaving things - his family and Payment Source. I am in awe of his achievements and of his strength and grace as he navigated his illness and his final days.
Rest in peace, my friend.