The outdoor hospitality industry is mourning the loss of George O’Leary, a renowned RV park industry pioneer and philanthropist, who passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 92. O’Leary’s impactful journey, from an Irish immigrant to a nationally recognized figure in the RV park sector, leaves behind a legacy of service, innovation, and generosity.
George O’Leary was best known as the developer and operator of the two Rincon Country RV Resorts in Tucson, Arizona. Under his leadership, these resorts became a symbol of quality and excellence in the industry. After several decades of successful operation, O’Leary sold the parks to Summit Real Estate in 2022.
O’Leary’s dedication and commitment to the RV park business earned him numerous awards and accolades, both at the state and national levels. Notably, he received the Stan Martin Memorial Award from National ARVC in 2008 and the Jack Denton Memorial Award in 2014, the highest award presented by Arizona ARVC.
His resorts also clinched National ARVC’s Park of the Year Awards in different size categories in 2018, marking a unique achievement.
In his later years, O’Leary was celebrated for his philanthropy. He made a significant contribution to the industry by endowing a $1 million scholarship in 2021 for current and aspiring park operators to attend ARVC’s School of RV Park and Campground Management, subsequently renamed in his honor.
Beyond the industry, O’Leary extended his generosity to children’s hospitals and food banks. He made substantial donations to St. Jude’s Children’s Advanced Research Center and Shriner’s Hospital for Children, honoring the memory of his first son, Seán, who tragically passed away at the age of five.
O’Leary’s contributions also supported the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and other organizations, reflecting his commitment to addressing hunger and supporting medical humanitarian missions.
In 1997, marking the 150th anniversary of the Irish Famine’s peak, O’Leary initiated a matching donation challenge at his Rincon Country RV Resorts, raising over $300,000 with guests for the Community Food Bank in Tucson over two decades.
A Legacy Documented
O’Leary’s life and contributions are meticulously documented in his self-published family history and business biography, The O’Learys of Beechwood. The book not only chronicles his personal journey and achievements but also sheds light on his family’s history in Ireland and offers insights into the challenges of balancing work and personal life.
A Lasting Impact on the Industry
George O’Leary’s passing is a significant loss for the outdoor hospitality industry. His pioneering work, service to Arizona ARVC and National ARVC, and philanthropic efforts have left an indelible mark. Members of the industry remember him as a figure of inspiration and a testament to the impact one individual can make.
As the industry reflects on O’Leary’s contributions, his advice on prioritizing family and seeking help for workaholism resonates with many.
“Many people like me will repeat what I have done during the last 50 years. My advice is, don’t let it start,” O’Leary wrote. “Workaholism can take over your life before you know it. It’s almost as bad as becoming an alcoholic. Don’t let it happen to you. Put your family first. If you think you need help, get it before it damages your health and your relationships.”
His autobiography, The O’Learys of Beechwood, is available for order, with proceeds going to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. For more information, Wendy Bykofsky can be reached at email@example.com.
According to the press release, O’Leary’s remains will be interred at a cemetery in St. Paul, Minnesota, as the outdoor hospitality industry continues to honor and remember a pioneer and philanthropist who shaped its landscape.
Featured image courtesy of Jeff Crider.