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George Tamaccio, longtime advocate for social justice

George Tamaccio, 62, a man of conviction who loved this country and Philadelphia yet chose a prison term instead of fighting in Vietnam, died Dec. 21 of lymphoma at Vancouver General Hospital in British Columbia.

George Tamaccio, 62, a man of conviction who loved this country and Philadelphia yet chose a prison term instead of fighting in Vietnam, died Dec. 21 of lymphoma at Vancouver General Hospital in British Columbia.

Mr. Tamaccio moved to Vancouver Island in 2005 after decades as an activist in Philadelphia-area political, environmental and social justice causes, such as opposing nuclear energy and overdevelopment, and advocating clean water and urban housing.

A longtime resident of West Mount Airy, Mr. Tamaccio was a sought-after political consultant who got out the vote through door-to-door canvassing of thousands of households, and was a leader for decades in citizen-action groups seeking to change government policies.

In retirement, he moved to a two-acre spread in Vancouver to pursue a dream as a rural farmer and a quieter lifestyle. But it wasn't long before Mr. Tamaccio became active in drinking-water issues and other environmental movements in Canada, causes he was involved with until his death.

Born in Frankford, Mr. Tamaccio moved with his family to Levittown in 1952. After graduating in 1963 from Neshaminy High School, he studied biology at Pennsylvania State University before dropping out of college during the Vietnam War. Listed 1-A, Mr. Tamaccio was drafted in the mid-1960s.

"He refused to fight what he considered an unjust war in Vietnam," recalled his friend Paul Beach. "He was not a hippie, but he called himself an anarchist who did not want to cooperate with the system."

Mr. Tamaccio served 19 months of a three-year prison term from 1968 until 1970 at Allenwood Federal Prison in central Pennsylvania, where he worked on the cattle detail to provide meat for federal prisoners at Lewisburg. Beach served time with Mr. Tamaccio for refusing to fight in Vietnam.

After jail, Mr. Tamaccio eventually returned to Penn State and earned a bachelor's degree in biology in 1973. He moved to West Philadelphia and was a research technician at the Wistar Institute and at the University of Pennsylvania from 1974 to 1978. He met Judith Goldschmidt, whom he married in 1985, and the couple settled in West Mount Airy.

Mr. Tamaccio combined scientific research skills with a passion to clean up the environment by leading citizen-action groups to change government policies. He spearheaded campaigns on toxic waste, acid rain, nuclear-waste disposal, Three Mile Island, and preservation of the Allegheny National Forest.

Mr. Tamaccio was regional political director for the League of Conservation Voters in Pennsylvania and New Jersey (1980-86); field director for Robert Edgar's unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 1986; director of Pennsylvania Public Interest Coalition in 1987; community relations coordinator for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (1988-94); and associate director of Solutions for Progress (1994-2005).

As head of the League of Conservation Voters, a political-action arm of the environmental movement, Mr. Tamaccio trained scores of paid canvassers to knock on doors of about 15,000 households in Germantown, Mount Airy, Chestnut Hill, Roxborough and Manayunk to talk about candidates' stands on environmental issues that affected those voters. The canvassers raised money for candidates who supported improvements in SEPTA, home-weatherization programs, utility rates, and factory emissions.

"Each year, we celebrated the winter solstice with a gathering of friends," said his wife. "Ironically, George died Dec. 21 in Vancouver time zone during the solstice."

"George always signed his letters 'Against the darkness,' " said friend Bud Alcock, who served time in prison with him in the 1960s. "George died in the light of the winter solstice."

In addition to his wife, Mr. Tamaccio is survived by two sisters and several nieces and nephews.

A celebration of his life was held yesterday in Philadelphia. The playful Mr. Tamaccio, a lifelong Phillies fan, had asked friends to wear Phillies hats to the ceremony.

Donations may be made to Comox Valley Water Watch Coalition, Box 320, Union Bay, B.C. V0R 3B0, Canada.