George Chase, 87: Key in founding of Atlanta Steeplechase

George Chase’s passion for horses can be traced all the way back to his childhood in Connecticut. Growing up, he loved to ride and show horses alongside his father and brothers, competing at some of the highest levels.

“He was a really authentic horse person,” said Martha Wyat, a longtime friend of the Chase family. “His love of horses was a thread he carried all his life.”

Chase resided in Connecticut until his job with Monsanto Chemical Co. moved him to Atlanta in the early 1950s. In 1955, he married his wife of 58 years, Janet “Jan” Perdue Chase, and together, they shared a strong love of horses.

For years, the couple and their three children hunted at the Shakerag Hounds foxhunting club, eventually creating Chase-A-Way Farm in Coweta County. Named after the strategic chase of foxhunting, the farm was the site of several point-to-point horse races, Jack Russell terrier races and parties.

It was through this hobby that Chase’s longtime friend and fellow Shakerag club member John Wyat brainstormed the idea of bringing the sport of steeplechasing to Atlanta. Chase, Wyat and a handful of other club members brought their expertise together for the inception of what is now known as the annual Atlanta Steeplechase.

George Edmund Chase Sr. died Sept. 16 of congestive heart failure at a rehab center in Gordonsville, Va., where he moved in 2010. He was 87. His body was cremated by Preddy Funeral Home, Gordonsville, Va. A graveside service was held Friday morning at Westview Cemetery in Atlanta.

Chase played a crucial role in the founding of the Atlanta Steeplechase, using his exceptional organizational skills to arrange and manage the horses for racing. He eventually became a member of the Atlanta Steeplechase Board of Stewards and remained an organizer of the event as it grew in popularity.

“He worked with the National Steeplechase Association to make sure we got horses here to run,” said Atlanta Steeplechase Executive Director Jean Bird. “He was instrumental in making it happen.”

The first official Atlanta Steeplechase took place in 1966 at John Wyat’s farm at Horseshoe Bend on the Chattahoochee River. Since 1997, the event has been held on the 435 acres of Kingston Downs between Rome and Cartersville. Often referred to as the city’s largest lawn party, the Atlanta Steeplechase will hold its 49th annual event in April.

“We thought it was going to be a little picnic in the backyard, and then people just kept pouring in,” Martha Wyat added with a laugh. “We had great times down there.”

Along with his wife, Chase is survived by two sons, George Edmund Chase Jr. of Atlanta and Paul Jerome Chase of Atlanta; one daughter, Janet Chase Pendergrast of Gordonsville, Va.; one brother, Peter Chase of Vero Beach, Fla.; and six grandchildren.

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