Born January 20, 1926 in Johnstown, PA, Mr. Schaefer attended the University of Montreal before becoming choirmaster at his home parish, Our Mother of Sorrows in Johnstown. He also directed a choir at Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish in Johnstown.
He directed choirs in Toledo, Cleveland, St. Louis, and Omaha before accepting Fr. John J. Ording's challenge to build a first-rate choir of men and boys at St. Jude.
Sixteen years later, the St. Jude Choir of Men and Boys had achieved Fr. Ording's goal and ended up being the last Catholic men and boys choir in the region.
Styled in both sound and appearance (black cassocks and long white surplices) like an English cathedral choir, Mr. Schaefer's choir made the 10:30 High Mass a weekly highlight for parishioners and non-parishioners alike.
In addition to its responsibilities at St. Jude, the choir sang at several Detroit Police Memorial Masses, the University of Detroit Law Schools Red Mass, the Christmas program at the Detroit Historical Museum and civic programs at Wayne State University and Ford Auditorium.
Under Mr. Schaefer's direction, the choir also performed at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., the St. Louis Cathedral in St. Louis and at Kansas State University's Newman Club. He also was instrumental in bringing the United States Air Force Academy's Catholic Choir to St. Jude in 1972 to dedicate the church's second organ, originally situated behind the altar.
Between 1964 and 1980, the choir became an elite, close-knit group that included a ceremonial corps of white-gloved crucifer, thurifer, candle bearers and acolytes.
When he left St. Jude in 1980, he spent two years at St. Angela Church in Roseville and finished his career, between 1982 and 1993, at St. Marks Old Catholic Church in Detroit.
After Mr. Schaefer died on May 15, 1995 at Carroll Manor Nursing Home in Hyattsville, MD, a memorial Mass was said at St. Jude. It was concelebrated by Msgr. Thomas Villerot, Fr. Raymond Sayers and Fr. James OLeary.
In obituaries, which appeared in The Detroit News, Detroit Free Press and The Michigan Catholic, friends and former choristers remembered Mr. Schaefer's ability to maintain high standards and his ability to build character while building his choir.
"He knew what was right for the church and stuck to his guns very strongly," said Lloyd Schlaf in the May 19, 1995 Detroit Free Press.
In the same tribute, Paul Avery said, "The friendships that were built...last today. His influence carries forward with all of us. We all have completed college and gone on to good jobs. That was because of George."
It is also "because of George" that the Assumption Schola continues the tradition of all-male sung liturgical music at Assumption Grotto in Detroit, Mich.