Life at the Shrine of the Sun
By Claire Girardeau, 2nd Year Fellow
Before starting his job managing the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun on November 1, 1995, George Guerrero served as a Garrison Sgt. Major in the Army with 25 years of experience in combat arms under his belt. At El Pomar, George held an impressive number of roles spanning from the curator for the Shrine and the Senior Vice President of Facilities to a senior staff member in the Regional Partnerships program and an important contributor to the Wild Land Fire Fund and the . Years of experience in so many different roles have left George with valuable connections and some life lessons worth noting.
George’s path to El Pomar was not as straightforward as his dedication to the Foundation might make it seem. He originally interviewed for this role at the Shrine as a courtesy to the leadership of El Pomar and to please the military personnel in charge of forging potential career connections, but George had another job lined up. That initial interview at the Shrine of the Sun changed his outlook as George recognized that such a role could help him transition from military to civilian life. The Shrine on the mountain is both beautiful and tranquil, which offered him the opportunity for reflection after working in such high-intensity situations. While a search for serenity committed him to a job at El Pomar initially, it was something else that kept him at the Foundation for so many years. George says, “the leadership treats you as an equal here,” and he appreciated that dynamic after managing the hierarchy of military life for so many years.
While he may have held many roles at the Foundation, George’s career has come full circle as he concludes his time at the Foundation at the same location in which he started: the Shrine. On a typical workday, George will arrive to the Shrine at around 7:30am to open the gates and clean the facility. He typically starts to welcome guests around 9:00am and remains available to answer questions and guide visitors to the many features of the Shrine. George’s role also encompasses the management of the impressive chimes from the Shrine, which today are digital recordings of Westminster chimes. The Shrine can play 300 songs total, and among its vast repertoire, one can find religious songs, Christmas melodies, patriotic tunes and even some popular jams. George explains that they have everything from The Beatles’ “Yesterday” to the masterpieces of Mozart. His personal favorite is “As Time Goes By” featured in Casablanca. At its typical volume, the Shrine can be heard for about three miles. If George were to turn the volume to its maximum level, the bells could be heard for up to 15 miles!
George’s role at the Shrine encompasses more than just the management of the property, as he is also dedicated to the extensive history of the landmark and gladly speaks about it with any interested visitors. George considers himself a history buff. After first starting his work at the Shrine, he quickly dove into the stories and facts behind Colorado Springs’ prominent historical figures such as William J. Palmer, Spencer Penrose and Winfield Scott Stratton as well as the history behind the facility itself. George continues to learn more about the Penroses and their legacy, and he is excited by the investigative work of Samantha Knoll and Sarah Woods at the Penrose Heritage Museum. The name Spencer Penrose did not show up in many history classes for Colorado Springs students in the past, but as that has changed, so has the local school districts’ interest in the Shrine and its stories. George has given tours and presented in classrooms across the region.
George hopes the Shrine will always be accessible to the public and continue to act as a vehicle to educate guests on the contributions of the Penroses. Envisioning his life beyond this institution, George looks forward to spending more time with his 17 grandchildren who range in age from three to 32. Additionally, he has nine great grandchildren and wants to be a prominent part of their lives. George also anticipates traveling in his new free time, and the destinations on the top of his bucket list are Yosemite and Niagara Falls.
Given this extensive career and rich home life, George often offers valuable advice for younger generations. Most notably, George believes it is important for people to reflect on and learn about the history of this country. He concluded his interview with the comment, “if you need to stand up for a cause, step forward and don’t be afraid.” Though he is ready for this next step, his legacy at the Shrine and at El Pomar as a whole will be felt for generations to come.