Archives Council of Prince Edward Island
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George received his early education at the one-room school house in New Perth, located near the Dewar family farm on the Georgetown Road. In the fall of 1932, George began his studies at Prince of Wales College. He graduated 23 May 1933 with a second class teachers license. George ranked fourth in his class and received the Governor General's Medal in teaching. His first teaching position was a one year contract at Brudenell School. After completing his contract, George returned to Prince of Wales in the fall of 1934 to obtain a first class teachers license. After graduating in the spring of 1935, he went back to Brudenell School on another one year contract. During the fall of 1936, George was again back at Prince of Wales, this time enrolled in pre-medical courses. He spent the next two years completing the pre-med requirements and graduated in May 1938. George was also the class valedictorian.
Although he had been accepted to Dalhousie University Medical School in Halifax, Nova Scotia, George deferred his attendance for one year and returned to teach at New Perth School. George's application to Dalhousie Medical School was reaccepted for September 1939 and he moved to Halifax to begin his studies that fall. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, there was an increased need for medical personnel in the armed forces. George joined the Canadian Officers Training Corps as a private during his first year of medical school, attending drills and military training in addition to his accelerated medical school program. In 1942 George was sent to Saint John General Hospital in Saint John, New Brunswick for his intern year. George graduated from the Dalhousie Medical School 1 September 1943.
Upon graduation, George became a Lieutenant. He was sent on various military assignments and training camps across Canada and was drafted to go overseas in the spring of 1945, but his tour was cancelled. George achieved the rank of Captain in 1946 and was discharged from service 26 March 1946.
While in Saint John during his intern year, George met Greta Jean Price, a nursing student at the Saint John General Hospital School of Nursing. The couple were married 7 June 1944 at Germain St. Baptist Church in Saint John. They would go on to have two children: Elizabeth Ellen (b. 6 July 1950) and Brian Lawrence (b. 4 July 1955).
After leaving military service in 1946, George enrolled in a special one-year diploma program in Public Health at the School of Hygiene at the University of Toronto. After completing the course, George and Jean moved to Lowther House in Bedeque, Prince Edward Island where George entered into medical practice in December 1946. The couple were in Bedeque for only a short time before moving to O'Leary, PEI where George took over the large medical practice of Dr. Muncey Tanton. Tanton ran his practice out of his home, known as "Leighwood", on Main Street in O'Leary. George bought the practice and "Leighwood" from Dr. Muncey Tanton and officially took over the practice of approximately 5,000 patients on 15 June 1947.
George's medical practice was a busy one which would grow considerably over the years. In 1954 he entered into partnership with his cousin Dr. Charles Dewar. The office was expanded to accommodate both physicians and a small apartment was built onto the back of "Leighwood" where Charles and his wife lived. The practice operated as the O'Leary Medical Clinic for a number of years out of that location. With an increased demand for services in the early 1970s, George and Charles decided to build a new 2700 sq. ft. clinic adjacent to the O'Leary Community Hospital. Construction began in October 1970 and the new O'Leary Medical Clinic facility officially opened in February 1971.
Even after the construction of the new office, George continued to see patients out of his home office. Although there were periods during which he was required to cut back on time spent with patients, George would practice medicine for over 60 years. Even when political commitments kept him from the clinic, George would see his patients on weekends. It was only after suffering a stroke in September 2003 that his long medical career came to an end.
George was also active in the provincial and national medical communities. He was a founding member of the College of Family Physicians of Canada and would go on to become a life member of the College. He was an active member of the Canadian Medical Society and served as president of the PEI Medical Society. In 1979, George also received the Medical Literacy Award for his paper entitled "Cancer on Main Street."
In addition to his distinguished medical career, George had an active political life. Following in the footsteps of his father, John Alexander Dewar, a member of the provincial legislature for 13 years, George was first elected to the PEI Legislative Assembly during the general election of 1955 as a member of the Conservative Party representing 2nd Prince. George was re-elected in the general elections of 1959, 1962, 1966, and 1970, as well as in the by-election held in November 1976. He was defeated in the general elections of 1974 and 1978. In 1957, George contested the Conservative Leadership against Walter Shaw and lost by two votes. He did, however, become interim Leader of the Opposition in 1970.
Between 1959 and 1966, George served as the Minister of Education and also served as the Provincial Secretary from 1965-1966. During his term as Minister of Education, high school enrollment in the province increased. There was also a special emphasis on vocational training during this period, with the Prince County Vocational High School opening in December 1963 and the Provincial Vocational Institute in Charlottetown opening in November 1964. This was also an important time in the history of post-secondary education in Prince Edward Island. George was involved in the passing of the Prince of Wales Act in 1964 which gave the College the right to grant degrees. He would later call this act "the most contentious piece of legislation with which I had to deal during my term in office." George was also involved in the merger of Prince of Wales and St. Dunstan's University into the University of Prince Edward Island in 1969.
After unsuccessfully running in the 1978 general election, George tried his hand at federal politics. He ran for the Conservative seat in Egmont in the federal election of 1984 and lost, effectively bringing his political career to a close.
George developed an early interest in history and genealogy which he nurtured throughout his life. While living at home and teaching school in New Perth in the 1930s, George spent countless hours talking with his father about the Dewar family history. It was at this time that George recorded much of the Dewar genealogy which he would later publish in his book, "The Brothers Dewar", in 1975. George would also go on to publish "Hernewood" (1979) based on John Hunter Duvar's original 1857 diary describing his journey immigrating to PEI and his early attempts to establish a farm on the Island. He would also publish "Life at Leighwood" (1982), a history of the six doctors who lived and worked out of the O'Leary residence since its construction, and an autobiography entitled "Prescription for a Full Life", published in 1993. In addition to his various books, George researched and spoke on a range of historical topics to various community groups, such as the Brudenell pioneers, the construction of the "Fixed Link" (Confederation Bridge), and the history of O'Leary.
George was an involved member of his local community. He was President of the O'Leary Athletic Association for ten years and President of the O'Leary Library Museum Association. He was a member of the 1967 Centennial Commission for PEI, a director of the Fathers of Confederation Trust, the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation, and chair of the PEI Potato Museum. George was a charter member of the King Soloman Chapter of the Royal Arch Masons formed in O'Leary in 1957 and later served as Presiding Officer. In 1976, George was admitted as a serving brother to the St. John Ambulance Order. He was also a member of the Royal Canadian Legion, the Maple Leaf Curling Club, the Mill River Golf Course, the Lions Club, the Caledonia Club, and the PEI Symphony Society. George was also active in the wider Canadian community, participating in the National Capital Commission in 1988.
George received a number of awards and distinctions during his lifetime. He received Canadian Army medals for Volunteer Service and for Long Service following his military service. George also was awarded the Canada Medal (1967), the Queen's Jubilee Medal (1978), lifetime membership in the Royal Canadian Legion (1984), the Legion Award of Merit, the Masonic Merit Award (1985), the Joseph Conway Brown Medallion from the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, lifetime membership in the PEI Medical Society (1993), and the Heritage Award (1993). George was also awarded an honourary degree from the University of Prince Edward Island (1993), the Order of Canada (1993), and the Order of PEI (1996). He also received the Lescarbot Award jointly with his wife Jean in 1992 for their support of culture in the province.
Dr. George Dewar died 19 November 2003 at the O'Leary Community Hospital in O'Leary, PEI. He was buried in the Brudenell Cemetery.
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