On January 23, 2014, Tony Chess, aka James R. Chess, succumbed, after a lengthy bout, to colorectal cancer. Tony was born in San Diego in 1940 in the same hospital that his father, Bob Chess was born in 1916. In 1950 the family of four; mother Kay and sister Pat moved to Ukiah. He graduated from Ukiah High Wildcats-Class of '58. While in high school he began his lifelong hobby of scuba diving the Mendocino coast. After graduation he spent the summer as a "flunkie" at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, and was invited to participate in a science expedition to Clipperton Island to assist with fish collecting. Tony then attended Monterey Peninsula College for a semester before heading to St. John, Virgin Islands to serve as a research assistant. He attempted college again at Humboldt State College (HSC) in 1960 and traveled to Alaska to work the summer of '61 and returned to HSC for the fall semester before enlisting in the Coast Guard in March '62. He was honorably discharged a month later due to "deficiency in color vision". He immigrated to Australia in 1962, following the death of his mother. He returned to HSC where he met Georgianna Vallee in the spring of '66 and they married in August. Tony graduated in February of '67 and that spring daughter Katie was born and the little family moved to New Jersey where Tony took his first job as a research biologist at the Sandy Hook Marine Laboratory, a job that took him up and down the Atlantic Coast and the Florida Keys. Two years later Tony decided that private enterprise was "the way to go" so the family traveled to San Diego to Westinghouse Ocean Research. After two years he was lured back to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). After another year in San Diego, the job took them to Catalina Island for three years and then onward to work at the NMFS office in Tiburon and settling in Petaluma for nearly 20 years. Through those years he authored and coauthored 30 research publications, invented new sampling techniques and devices, discovered a few new species of marine animals, and traveled throughout Micronesia and annually to the Hawaiian Islands. Through all those years Tony cultivated his gardening hobby and while in Petaluma began his other hobby, woodworking. He built many beautiful pieces of furniture before settling on woodturning and became an accomplished turner of hundreds of bowls in the next 30 years, many of them pieces of fine art. In 1995, he retired from NOAA but continued to do fish gut analysis on a private consulting basis. Tony and Georgianna moved to Piercy in 1996 to spend the rest of their years together basking in the sun and swimming in the Eel River. His garden and workshop have been a source of awe to his many friends and neighbors. Tony leaves his wife of 47 years, Georgianna, daughter Katie, sister Pat and nephew Jim Nelson and more friends and family than one can count. A memorial celebration will be held on Saturday, Feb 1st from 1 to 5 p.m. at the home of Paul Vallee, 1303 G St, Eureka. Another celebration of Tony's life is being planned for later, to be held in Piercy. The family requests that memorial contributions be made to Heart of the Redwoods Community Hospice, 464 Maple Lane, Garberville 95542.
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Published Online in the Press Democrat from Jan. 28 to Jan. 31, 2014