By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Thomas Newman remembers one of his early encounters with George G. Pancol.
Thirty-eight years ago, Newman was running a campaign for a Madison County judgeship, and Pancol was one of his primary competitors for the nomination. Newman said all signs pointed to Pancol winning, so the news of Newman's victory was a shock to many. The day after the nomination, Pancol, his son and his daughter all came to Newman's office to offer congratulations.
Newman was very humbled.
"He was so gracious. It almost made me feel ashamed to win," Newman said. "Would I have been that gracious? I don't know. I'm a pretty competitive guy."
So Newman was humbled again when Pancol's family asked him to speak at the former judge's funeral on Saturday. Pancol, who was 87 when he died due to heart complications on Tuesday, was a lifelong Anderson resident and a longtime political and legal stalwart in the community. Despite his prominence and importance in the community, Newman said he was always amazed by Pancol's good nature, graciousness and hard work.
"He had no ill will. He made people feel good about themselves," said Newman, who has served several terms as Madison Circuit Court 3 judge. "I can't believe how blessed our community was to have him as a member for all these years."
The son of Greek immigrants, Pancol graduated from Anderson High School in 1945 and received his undergraduate and law degrees from Indiana University. He was also a World War II veteran of the Army. His law career lasted more than 50 years. He started working as an attorney and also served as a public defender. He was judge of County Court I and most recently worked part-time as a commissioner for Newman.
He married Irene Tzouanakis in 1949, and the two settled in Anderson in 1953. Newman said the two were an amazing couple.
"When she died several years ago, we thought it might devastate him, but it never did. He continued to work and work hard. He had that strong Greek character," Newman said.
Newman also said he passed that strong work ethic and good nature on to his children, Deborah M. Elpers and G. George Pancol, who currently serves as Madison Circuit Court 2 Judge. Pancol said he was saddened by his father's death, but was appreciative for the long years he was able to live alongside his father.
"He basically never had health problems. Nothing that incapacitated him. Never had to be in a nursing him. Drove up until the day he died. Worked up until the day he died," Pancol said. "It was a blessing not to have him hooked up to machines or anything like that."
The younger judge said he thinks the reason his father stayed so vibrant for so long was his dedication to work. G. George, who is partly blind, said his father would often drive him in the mornings to the courthouse, where they both worked for years. He said Pancol was extremely dedicated to his extended family, often taking the entire family on vacations to Florida.
"Everything was family. That's just the kind of person he was," Pancol said.
The funeral services for Pancol will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at the First United Methodist Church in Anderson.
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