George Lee, Co-founder of Rite-Style Optical, Dies at 91

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OMAHA—George Lee, co-founder of the independent wholesale laboratory Rite-Style Optical, died May 22 at The Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Bellevue, Neb. He was 91 years-old and lived in Omaha and Phoenix, Ariz.

Lee was born Dec. 9, 1922. At age 18 he was hired by Barnett & Ramel Optical in Kansas City, Mo., initially working in the lab’s surface room and then in the finish department. After briefly relocating to Dallas with Barnett & Ramel, he returned to Kansas City and become manager of the company’s Omaha branch in 1946.

In 1948, Lee and a fellow Barnett & Ramel employee, Harold Thompson, co-founded Rite-Style Optical (RSO) in Omaha. At the time, prism values were calculated with a lead pencil and slide rule and all lenses were made from glass.

Under Lee’s direction, Rite-Style grew into one of the largest independent wholesalers in the industry, and was perennially ranked among Vision Monday’s Top Labs. In 2006, Rite-Style became the first independent lab in the country to launch a fully-integrated direct surfacing lens production process. In 2013, Walman Optical acquired Rite-Style from Lee and his family.

Lee served as president and board member for several optical organizations, including MOLA (Midwest Optical Laboratory Association), Global Optics, NAMO (National Association of Manufacturing Optical), WOL (Wholesale Optical Laboratories) and OLA (Optical Laboratories Association). He was a charter member of both the OLA’s Optical Pioneers Hall of Fame and the Dispensing Opticians of Nebraska. He volunteered on several VOSH (Volunteer Optical Services to Humanity) trips, and was a Mason and a 32nd Degree Shriner. He helped organize programs that offered employment to special needs men and women and to WWII veterans who lacked job skills.

Lee was preceded in death by his son, Craig Lee. He is survived by his wife of 43 years, Billie Lee; children, Larry (Phyllis) Lee, Scott (Carol) Lee, Sherry (Rick) Herman, Tracy and (Mari) Lee, and Andrea Bergquist; 13 grandchildren; and 22 great grandchildren.

Donations can be made to The Madonna Foundation for the benefit of the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital in Bellevue, Neb., 5401 South St., Lincoln, Neb., 68506; St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, 925 South 84th St., Omaha, Neb., 68124; or Shrine Crippled Children's Transportation Fund c/o Tangier Shrine Center, 2823 South 84th St., Omaha, Neb., 68124.