TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Tucson businessman and philanthropist George Kalil, who was well known as Arizona basketball’s No. 1 fan, has died.
According to a news release, Kalil died Wednesday night, July 10, at age 81.
Kalil worked in the soft drink industry since the age of 10 and took the helm of some parts of Kalil Bottling Co. while in high school. He was named president of Kalil Bottling Co. in 1970.
The company has expanded to reach parts of four states and boasts of being the first bottler in the country to offer a caffeine and sodium-free cola.
He helped found both the Tucson Fiesta Bowl Committee and the Arizona Beverage Industry Recycling Program.
Kalil was inducted into the Beverage Industry Hall of Fame in 1992 and was named the Beverage Industry’s Executive of the Year in 1998, among many other industry honors.
He was also inducted into the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame in 1998. Kalil was one of the few fans to receive a championship ring when the Arizona Wildcats won the NCAA basketball championship in 1997. He missed only 12 games in 45 years.
Kalil donated $1 million to renovate the gym and athletic facilities at Salpointe Catholic High School and another $1 million to help in the renovation of McKale Center at the University of Arizona.
University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins issued a statement on the death of George Kalil:
“George was a tireless supporter of the University of Arizona and Arizona Athletics. We will miss his remarkable enthusiasm for our teams and for our students. My thoughts are with his family, friends and the entire Wildcat nation as we mourn this loss.”
Kalil’s brother and Kalil Bottling’s vice president and general manager of Phoenix, John Kalil, will now lead the company.