This is a different kind of holiday story. A story about one man\u2019s life and death. A story about an ordinary extraordinary man who changed the world \u2026 for the better. He was a man whose obituary didn\u2019t appear in the New York Times and whose death didn\u2019t attract national attention or make the evening news, and yet he was a man who had a more lasting influence on the world than congressmen and media moguls and Wall Street power-brokers. George Saffian, who died at 87, was a high school biology teacher with an unusual story. Forty years ago, when he saw society coming apart at the seams, he left behind the city and his career in education and moved his wife and young children to the mountains, where he thought he could give them a better life. He was sort of a modern day Thoreau, who turned a 13-acre field into one of the most beautiful campgrounds in the White Mountains. George was born and reared in Michigan. He left high school to enlist in the Air Force during World War II but later resumed his education and earned his bachelor\u2019s and master\u2019s degrees. Marched to a different drummer George was a man who sang in the Sunday choir, who volunteered at the local nursing home, who loved to watch \u201cBarney Miller\u201d reruns, and who cherished his 22 grandchildren and spent long days with them in the mountains. He was a man whose best friend was his wife, Kathy, to whom he was faithfully married for 57 years. He was a tall, distinguished man with gray hair and a gray beard, and his eyes twinkled when he laughed. Everything he did and everything he believed was contrary to what modern society tells us is important, and in that respect, he was a man who marched to a different drummer. Yes, he was like Thoreau. Very \u2018George\u2019 until the day he died I was blessed to know George. I couldn\u2019t attend his funeral, but his wife sent a letter that expressed the depth of their love: \u201cThank you so very much for George\u2019s Mass offering. It is very special to know that Fr. Murphy will have this Mass at St. Agnes Church in New York City. It is a very special church for many reasons, one of which is that my mom and dad often attended that church when they visited the Big City many years ago. George was a wonderful man, indeed, and please know that he had a special affection for you. \u2026 Our life this past year was pretty restricted. When George resigned from the church choir some time last spring, we both knew his time would not be very long. But he actually stayed very \u2018George\u2019 right until the day he died. Very frail, but still so strong of spirit. We enjoyed 57 years together with all of life\u2019s ups and the downs. When I watched our seven children guide George\u2019s coffin into the church, it was the closest I came to tears. My memories are so sweet and full of laughter that I have never been anything but grateful and \u2018joyfully sad\u2019 since we said to each other, \u2018Good-bye. See you later.\u2019\u201d Left the world a better place I\u2019ve often thought that the greatest testament to a person\u2019s life is that when he dies, everyone is thankful that he lived, because of the joy, strength and compassion he showed to others. That was George\u2019s story, a simple yet profound one that left the world a better place. Joe Pisani, who grew up in Shelton\u2019s Pine Rock neighborhood, may be reached at email@example.com.