Prominent Orange County geologist George Zebal died of arteriosclerosis Saturday at his home in Laguna Hills. He was 68.
"He died Saturday sitting at his desk doing a geothermal report," his widow, Patricia, said Monday. "I knew it would be the way he would go."
Zebal previously had suffered a stroke and had undergone surgery several times, she said, but continued with his work. "He was devoted to geology and decided when he was 7 years old to be a geologist. He never wanted to be anything else."
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at McCormick Mortuary in Laguna Hills. Mrs. Zebal said that after the body is cremated, the couple's sons, Bradley, 41, and Ronald, 37, plan to scatter the ashes at sea.
"He was devoted to his family and was very gregarious," Mrs. Zebal said. "He just loved everybody."
Before starting his own geothermal energy consulting business 10 years ago, Zebal worked in mining geology in the Sierra, oil geology in New Orleans and space geology in Newport Beach, his widow said. His profession took him to many countries, including Taiwan and Japan.
Zebal's work also took him and his family to 17 states. "We moved 27 times in 25 years," she said.
Locally, his work included acting as a consultant to the City of Newport Beach.
"The city is going to miss George's technical expertise very much," City Manager Bob Wynn said Monday. "He was a very capable person and was very conscientious."
Wynn said that Zebal designed and implemented a gas collection and burning system at Balboa Coves near the ocean where there were problems involving subsurface gas and seepage. Zebal also helped with a plan to decrease longstanding problems involving subsurface gas pressures in the city.
When he wasn't working, Zebal liked to raise plants and cheer for the Los Angeles Rams and USC Trojans football teams, his widow said. While an undergraduate at California State University, Fresno, he was a state champion in the high and low hurdles.
Zebal, who would have been married 45 years in July, also is survived by a sister, Linda Lee Branaman, and grandchildren, Christopher, 9; Timothy, 4, and Andon, 15 months.