There are two things everyone who knew Southern California performance boater George Argyros Jr., can agree on. The man was as generous as all get out and as unconventional as anyone who has ever been a part of this country’s intensely devoted powerboat community.
George Argyros was one of the main reasons the Lake Powell Challenge in Arizona grew to become one the nation’s most popular—and philanthropic—events. Photo by Tom Leigh/Tommy Gun Images
Unfortunately for those of us in the tight-knit population of performance boat enthusiasts, we won’t get to experience the joy that was George Argyros as the founder and chief executive officer of several business ventures, including The Argyros Group, turnkey life insurance financial provider Leveraged Life, Inc., and insurance industry holding company Elite Financial Group, LLC, died at age 55 after suffering a cardiac arrest on Friday, Aug. 28.
Argyros is survived by his parents—Orange County billionaire philanthropists George and Julia Argyros—his wife, Shannon, son, George Leon III, his two sisters, Stephanie Argyros and Lisa Argyros, and many nephews, nieces and friends. Because of COVID-19 concerns, the family announced funeral services will be private.
The outpouring of condolences for the man who owned many performance boats, including the notable Donzilla Donzi Marine 43 ZR and, most recently, a pair of MTI models—a 48-foot catamaran dubbed MiTI Fun/Mayhem and a 42-foot center console dubbed Chaos. All fitting names for the larger-than-life Argyros.
“The news of George’s passing was devastating,” said DCB Performance Boats president Jeff Johnston, who first met Argyros when he worked at Powerboat magazine in the late-2000s and continued to sell and service Argyros’ propellers when he worked at Hering Propellers prior to making the move to DCB. “I’ve probably known him for at least 12 years and he’s always been super nice and hospitable any time my wife, Nichole, and I had the chance to go boating or just hang out with him. He was definitely an outspoken individual who was never afraid to make his presence known.
“That said, he could come off as borderline obnoxious, mainly because he was so outgoing and had such an over-the-top personality,” he continued. “But he was a good human being with an incredibly huge heart. I don’t know if I’ve met anyone as generous as George. Another thing I have to point out, because I will always remember him for this, is the man could dock a boat. It didn’t matter if it was Donzilla or one of his MTIs, he could grease his boats into a dock with the best of them—while holding a cigar in his hand at that. One time I remember someone saying to him, ‘Well that was lucky.’ So he pulled his boat out of the slip and did it again just to prove he could. That was George. We’re all going to miss him.”
Lake Powell, which borders Arizona and Utah, was one of Argyros’ favorite places to boat. Photo by Tom Leigh
The Storm Poker Runs team, which organizes the Desert Storm Poker Run and Monster Storm Poker Run in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., where Argyros owned a home, shared a post on Facebook that said, “It is with great sadness that we share the news that longtime participant and supporter George Argyros Jr. has passed away. The team at Storm Poker Runs would like to extend our deepest condolences to the entire Argyros family during this incredibly difficult time. We are very fortunate to have shared so many great memories with George and his family over the years.”
Chris Hamlin, who owns Prestige Marine in Lake Havasu City and has been taking care of Argyros’ boats for close to 15 years, couldn’t believe the news when he heard it.
“This just doesn’t seem real—any minute I expect him to walk through the door with his huge smile,” Hamlin said. “He was like the brother I never had; we shared some incredible memories together over the years. I still don’t know if it’s really set in that George is gone. I’m grateful I got to know him, his amazing wife, Shannon, and their wonderful son, G3. Not everyone understood George and where his playfulness was coming from, but the bottom line is he had such a huge heart. The guy’s mind went so fast, too. He was smart—beyond smart in fact. The whole thing is so sad. All of us at Prestige Marine are going to miss him, heck everyone is going to miss him.”
Fellow Lake Havasu boaters Colleen and Jay Jorgensen paid their respects as well.
“With a heavy heart—I have to say R.I.P. George ‘Donzilla’ Argyros,” Collen Jorgensen wrote. “You will be greatly missed.”
The organizers of the Lake Powell Challenge—arguably Argyros’ favorite event of the year—also posted a tribute to Argyros.
“George, you were here from the start,” the Instagram post stated. “You and Shannon have not only supported countless numbers of children with Type 1 Diabetes, but have truly had a remarkable impact on everyone who worked the event, attended or participated. We cannot thank you and Shannon enough for your generosity and commitment to the Lake Powell Challenge. We will never forget the legacy you have left behind.”
Check out the slideshow above for more images of Argyros and some of the different boats he’s owned over the years. Photos by Jimmy Biro, Pete Boden, Florida Powerboat Club, Jason Johnson, Tom Leigh and Emma Schebesta.
Emma Schebesta, a server and bartender at Antelope Point Marina, which hosts the Lake Powell Challenge, got to know the Argyros family well over the years and expressed her sadness over his passing.
“I’ve been trying to find the right words to say to truly show how grateful I am to have known such a great person,” Schebesta said. “George came into my life six years ago—I was this shy 15-year-old girl who could barely even talk to people. The first day I met George he let me drive his boat. I’m not sure what gave him the impulse to do that, but he saw potential in me. Ever since that day, George and his wife, Shannon, continued to give me those extraordinary experiences and open up opportunities I thought I would never have. You will be missed by so many. Love you Shannon and G3. My family will always be here for you two.”
Win Farnsworth, another notable performance boater who called Argyros a friend, shared a post on Facebook as well.
“We’re going to miss you George!” Farnsworth said. “All of you! So sad! Rest in peace my friend.”
Besides becoming an entrepreneur, Argyros supported several causes, including the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, City of Hope and Mariners Christian School in Costa Mesa. Obviously his impact extended well beyond the boating community and there’s no doubt Argyros will be missed. As Farnsworth said, rest in peace George.
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