"Little George" aka "Skipper"
This is the story of George Lewis Maxfield written by Julia Randall.
George Lewis Maxfield blessed his parents on July 11, 1956, when he came into this world. Born with special needs, he would win the affection of the Lawrenceville community and became known as “Little George” or “Skipper.”
His parents were George and Margaret Maxfield, owners of the Maxfield Market on 15th Street in Lawrenceville for over 50 years. His mother was instrumental in bringing “Special Education” into the Lawrence County Schools. She would also be instrumental in the formation of the Lawrence County Association for Retarded Citizens in 1974. Later, in 1976 the name was changed to include Physically Handicapped Citizens. The Association still serves special needs and handicapped citizens in Lawrence County today.
More about Margaret Maxfield's remarkable life will be found in the Ladies of Lawrence book to be published later this year by the Lawrence County Historical Society.
Little George attended the Lawrenceville public schools, attending Special Education courses and receiving a diploma along with 165 other graduates from the Lawrenceville High School in 1976. He enjoyed many social activities including attending the newly organized Teen Center.
In June 1968 when Little George was 12 years old, Margaret and Little George constructed a colorful, large wooden map of the USA on the front of the Market with an oversized state of Illinois. Lawrenceville was specially marked. The large display welcomed folks to Lawrenceville during the state’s 150th anniversary of statehood. The map was titled “Home of Little George.”
Also, enjoyed by the community was a display board on the store front for many years that offered birthday greetings to different local residents. Little George kept a catalog of the names and dates.
In a patriotic spirit, Margaret and Little George converted the Market storefront into “Fort George” as a Bicentennial project in 1975. Eight flags were displayed across the rooftop including several handmade by his mother. She made a Bicentennial flag, and a Lawrenceville flag with white stripes and an Indian Head with the name Lawrenceville. The other flags included an Illinois State flag, and a Betsy Ross flag handmade by Margaret as well. A large drum was also displayed on the top right of the roof declaring “Fort George.”
Little George, a.k.a. “Skipper” enjoyed cycling and set records for the miles he “traveled”. In early 1987, a stationary bicycle was purchased for him to exercise, and he lost 30 pounds. He rode 1,000 miles and decided to make an imaginary trip to Los Angeles, CA, adding 4,000 miles to his cycle odometer. With achieving the 5,000-mile mark, his church family at the Church of God held a party and awarded him a trophy for his efforts.
Margaret was pleased with the geography lessons that followed with trips to Louisville, KY (300 miles) and Detroit, MI (700 miles). Skipper was learning the location of states and highways, in addition to and map reading. He would do an imaginary visit to family members and in that way, he toured the eastern states. He continued his” travels” until his cycle odometer reached 9,995 miles. He had been riding his cycle for about 18 months. Again, his Church of God family held a party for Skipper at which he rode the final 5 miles to turn over 10,000 miles. He received awards and another trophy.
Skipper continued his imaginary travels. At the 30,000 miles accomplishment in which he pedaled on the “Love Boat”, he crossed from San Francisco to Hawaii and back. He again was thrown a party by the Church of God and rode the last two miles at the event.
He received the Presidential Award for Physical Fitness in March 1992. Later the Council on Physical Fitness chose Skipper as one of six out of the 35,000 award winners to be in a short film named “A Nation of Winners”.
In November 1995, Susan (Lawson) Gher, local 5th grade teacher was inspired by Skipper’s cycling to create a program, “Bike Around America” with her social studies students. Each student was to ride a set number of miles each week from state capital to state capital.
By 1997,Little George celebrated his 50,000-mile milestone and another party was given for him, who was a 37- year member of the Church of God. Skipper continued to pedal away with “visits” to many other countries including Canada, Greenland, Russia, South America, and Africa. In 1999 Skipper had logged 63,000 miles having traveled “around the world”. (Note – the distance around the equator is 24,902 miles.)
Skipper could also be seen on floats in local parades riding his bicycle with cheers of appreciation shown by the local community. Over the years he replaced numerous seats, pedals, and the mileage cable.
With his father’s death in 1999, his mother closed the business in October after 53 years of memories. She and Little George moved to Pennsylvania to be near Little George’s uncle, James Perryman. After his mother’s death, Little George lived on with his uncle Jim and died in 2017 at the age of 60. He is buried next to his father and mother in the Lawrenceville City Cemetery.