George David Armstrong 1946 - 2022

George David Armstrong was born August 16, 1946, in Plymouth, Ohio, to John T Armstrong and Alice (Shoup) Armstrong; he was raised in Shelby, Ohio. He was named after his grandfather, G.W. Armstrong.

George David made his first instrument, a cigar box banjo, at age 10, and has been an instrument maker and musician ever since. His sister, Alison, recalls “Davie,” as he was known as a boy, as an “aspiring mountain man"; he trapped and fished, earning extra pocket money from an early age.

GD made his way westward, studying forestry at the University of Idaho. He took time out to experience the 1960s in San Francisco and talked of attending concerts in the Anchor Steam Brewery, and on his return to Idaho worked for the US Forest Service.
After settling in Portland, Oregon, GD worked in the shipyards as a ship’s carpenter and was active in the IWW union and community organizing. He married Judy Cranna in 1968, and in 1969 their son, Josh, was born.

In the early 1970s, GD was disenchanted with life in the city and wrote to his sister about his desire to be a farmer, citing Wendell Barry’s poem, “The Satisfactions of the Mad Farmer,” as his inspiration:

“Growing weather; enough rain;
the cow’s udder tight with milk;
the peach tree bent with its yield;
honey golden in the white comb;

the pastures deep in clover and grass,
enough and more than enough;
the ground, new worked, moist
and yielding underfoot, the feet
comfortable in it as roots;

the early garden: potatoes, onions,
peas, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots,
radishes, marking their straight rows
with green, before the trees are leafed;

raspberries ripe and heavy amid their foliage,
currants shining red in clusters amid their foliage,
strawberries red ripe with the white
flowers still on the vines—
picked with dew on them, before breakfast

What I know of spirit is astir
in the world. The god I have always expected
to appear at the woods’ edge, beckoning,
I have always expected to be
a great relisher of the world, its good
grown immortal his mind.”

GD was planning to move back to Idaho, but visited a friend in Yamhill and found his fit. The small farm was just what GD was looking for, and it was there he met Dee Goldman, and they were married in 1972. As part of the back to the land movement, the pair raised sheep, goats, pigs, rabbits, chickens, honeybees, and two sons, Abram and Eli. They cultivated a large amount of vegetables on the fertile soil, just as in the Wendell Berry poem. The farm included 80 acres of woods, which GD loved, and was happy to share his knowledge of trees, plants and animals. Fishing in local rivers and Hagg Lake with his sons and father-in-law, Barney Goldman, gave GD a great deal of pleasure.

Always a talented craftsman, GD designed and built a spacious house and workshop in which he pursued his hobby of luthiery, (building stringed musical instruments), which grew into his career. After selling dulcimers to a few to friends, (and famously swapping one for a caterpillar tractor that promptly died on the farm), GD began focusing more and more on honing his craft, performing repairs on instruments, and building from scratch everything from Appalachian dulcimers, hammered dulcimers, banjos, guitars, mandolins, bouzoukis, and historical instruments for members of the Portland Baroque Orchestra. He was a talented musician, able to play the instruments he built and many more, including the smallpipes, and won awards for his traditional Scottish fiddle playing at the Portland Highland Games.

In 1992, GD started a community music session at Yamhill City Hall, called Folk Music in Yamhill. Out of that group the Rendezvous String Band coalesced, with its first gig as part of a rendezvous reenactment at the Yamhill Grade School in May of 1993. The band plays Americana, Irish and Scottish traditional music. The band mostly played in Yamhill County, with the odd performance in Portland, and appearances in Dunoon, Scotland, and Reykjavik, Iceland, and released four albums on cassette and CD.

Continuing his work as a luthier, George David began repairing instruments for Newberg Music Center in 1998, and eventually took it over in 2000 when the previous owner retired. Known especially for his mandolin family instruments, including bouzoukis and octave mandolins, GD sent instruments to customers around the world including across the US, Scotland, England, Ecuador, Brazil, Japan, and New Zealand. GD enjoyed helping the community, providing rental instruments for Newberg band students as well as repairing instruments and selling those he had built. He was a regular at Irish traditional music sessions and concerts throughout the Portland area, both listening and playing. He was amazingly gentle and kind person; as his sister Alison puts it, “GD was not competitive but very accomplished, and he will be missed by many friends, musicians and family.

George David is survived by his older sister, Alison Armstrong; his ex-wife, Dee Goldman; his three sons, Josh Armstrong, Abram-Goldman-Armstrong, and Eli Goldman-Armstrong; daughter-in-law, Stephanie Armstrong; grandchildren, Tessa Armstrong and Max Armstrong; his daughter, Ceinwen Rhys; and his grandchildren, Arwen and Tegan Halbert.

Newberg Music Center will honor GD with a memorial service/potluck/dance/celebration at the music store from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 19. Please feel free to bring an instrument or story to share about GD.

A Celebration of Life will be held around George David’s birthday, August 16, 2022, with further details to be confirmed. Information about the event will be available at


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