George Petriz, longtime patriarch of Michigan's Crystal Mountain Resort and Spa, passed away just before Christmas after a long illness. He was 93 years old and will be remembered for guiding the resort from humble beginnings to one of the Heartland's major family resorts.

He was a decorated World War II hero and a Japanese prisoner of war who received the Purple Hart and Navy Cross for acts of heroism.  He and his family moved to northern Michigan after the war where they became involved in starting a small community ski hill called Buck Hills around 1956. Volunteers, led by George and his wife Althea, cut trails and erected a couple of rope tows.

Petriz and a couple of other investors bought the fledgling ski hill in 1966, renaming it Crystal Mountain. The resort grew slowly over the next couple of decades adding more runs, lifts and lodging, and a golf course in 1977 making it a year-round resort. George bought out the other two investors in the 1980s and brought in his daughter and son-in-law, Chris and Jim MacInnes to spearhead the growth of the resort.

He helped guide Crystal Mountain from this sleepy little Northern Michigan ski resort to become one of the top destination resorts in the Midwest and the nation.  It has been recognized by Parents magazine as one of the top family destinations in the United States and "One of America's Favorite Family Resorts" by Better Homes & Gardens. The Chicago Tribune called it "Midwest's Best Family Resort."

Crystal Mountain has certainly grown from a handful of hand-cut trails and a couple of rope tows. There are now 45 downhill slopes and nine lifts, including a high-speed quad; 40-kilometers of groomed cross-country trails; lodging for more than 1,200 people with a hotel, condos and cottages; conference center; indoor and outdoor pools, fitness center and spa; variety of restaurants; two golf courses; and the Michigan Legacy Art Park. It arguably has one of the top resort villages in the Heartland and would rival many found in mountain states.

Petriz was a humble man with a great vision and the ability to inspire those around him.  He brought out the best in people, and his legacy will long be remembered.