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JOHN GARCIA (1917 - 2012)

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Dr. John Garcia, of La Conner, led the great American life. He was a first generation American, the son of Spanish immigrants: Sara Casasnovas y Unamuno and Benigno Garcia y Rodriguez.

John was born a farm worker June 12, 1917 near Santa Rosa, California, and died a world-renowned member of the National Academy of Sciences, October 12, 2012. Along the way he was a farmer, a cartoonist, a ship fitter, an Air Corps Cadet, an amateur boxer, a high school teacher and a college professor, as well as a research scientist at Harvard Medical School and the Brain Research Institute at UCLA. During World War II he built submarines for the US Navy, and then enlisted in the Army Air Corps.

In 1943, he married the love of his life, Dorothy Inez Robertson. They were married 69 years, living the last 28 years in Skagit County, first on Pleasant Ridge, then 9 years in La Conner.

After the war, John used the G.I. Bill to go to UC Berkeley where he did radiation and brain research. Early on, he discovered that rats could detect and avoid low doses of radiation, lower than a dental x-ray. This led to sharp scientific battles with B.F. Skinner's Behaviorist Psychology and pro-nuclear members of the military industrial complex; a fight he eventually won. When sheep started dying en masse downwind from the nuclear test sites, it was members of his lab that identified the cause as radiation poisoning. He flew to Vienna with JFK to meet with the Russians; he testified before congress along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Through all this, he always thought of himself as a farm boy bringing real animals and real people into the cloistered world of academic debate; taking on not only the nuclear and scientific establishment, but also the IQ and SAT testers, and the bureaucratic inertia of the Environmental Protection Agency. He always insisted that science must conform to the real world, and the lives of ordinary people. His later work showed how taste aversion could be used to train wolves and coyotes, in the wild, not to prey on livestock. The "Garcia Theory" (of taste aversion) is named for him.

John was the greatest father and grandfather imaginable, constructing ingenious toys, games and playhouses for his kids and their kids. He was a wonderful teacher, and a firm believer in learning through doing. Having lived all over the United States, John retired from teaching at UCLA, and moved with Inez to Skagit Valley in 1985, as it was so like the farm country in California where he grew up.

He is survived by his loving wife, Inez Robertson Garcia, three sons, Rod Garcia of Fir Island, Ben David Garcia of La Conner and Johnny Garcia of Santa Maria, five grandchildren, Anneke Beach-Garcia of La Conner, Erin Sara Beach-Garcia of Seattle, Maya Garcia of Berkeley, Diego Garcia of Santa Maria, and Harlan Garcia, one great-grandchild, Kalina Neumann of La Conner, two daughters-in-law, Diana Acevedo of Santa Maria and Michelle Beach of Rexville, and brothers, Richard Garcia of Walnut Creek, and Ben Garcia of Santa Rosa. His parents and other brothers, Ted, Frank and Bob Garcia, preceded him in death.

John Garcia lived a long and happy life, inspiring many. He will be long remembered with love, respect, appreciation and admiration.
Published in Skagit Valley Herald Publishing Company on Mar. 7, 2013
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