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Dr. John O. Sawyer Jr.

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Dr. John O. Sawyer, Jr. passed away peacefully at his home on August 19, 2012 at age 72. Born on November 22, 1939 in Chico, California, John married the love of his life, Roberta (Jane) Cole, over thirty-six years ago in the California Federation of Women's Club Grove in the Avenue of the Giants. Over the years, he adopted her family as his own and was there for them in good times and in bad. He was preceded in death by his parents, John (Orvel) and Barbara Sawyer and he is survived by his wife Jane, best friend and colleague James P. Smith, Jr., sister Dorothy Erickson, two sons Kevin and Jeffrey and their mother Judy Sawyer, and many beloved relatives, friends, colleagues, and former students. John joined the faculty at Humboldt State University in 1966, where he became Professor of Botany and a nationally recognized authority on plant ecology, conifers, and the vegetation and flora of California, especially of the Klamath Region. He was particularly proud of his cadre of graduate students, many of whom now occupy professorships, and responsible positions in state and federal agencies and the conservation movement around the country. John's friendship and rigorous, theory-driven exploration of ecological ideas with his students and colleagues created personal and professional bonds that will last beyond a lifetime. His countless hours of field research, extending well beyond his formal retirement, resulted in over forty scientific publications and three books - Trees and Shrubs of California, Northwest California: A Natural History, and A Manual of California Vegetation, which was adopted as the state standard for vegetation classification. Among his many honors, John was recognized by Humboldt State University as its 1997 Scholar of the Year, by the California Botanical Society in dedicating the 2008 volume of its journal to him, and he was the recipient of the J. C. Pritzlaff Conservation Award of the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden. He was active in several organizations, including the Save the Redwoods League and the Ecological Society of America, where he served as a technical advisor. John was President of the California Native Plant Society, and a founding member and first President of the North Coast Chapter of CNPS. While plant ecology was John's primary academic interest, he was also an avid hiker, photographer, traveler, an admirer of the art of Turner, Bierstadt, and Miro, and gained much enjoyment listening to Bach, Villa-Lobos, Piazzolla, Glass, Judy Collins, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Italian opera. Memorial contributions may be made to any of the organizations mentioned above or to a memorial bench that will be dedicated to him at the Lanphere Dunes (Friends of the Dunes, P. O. Box 186, Arcata 95518) or to the John O. Sawyer, Jr. Endowment to support field studies in botany (Advancement Foundation, Gift Processing Center, Humboldt State University, 1 Harpst Street, Arcata 95521-8299). A picnic for friends and family in celebration of John's life and accomplishments will be held at Patrick's Point State Park on September 22nd (e-mail jos2 at humboldt .edu for details). Please sign the guestbook at www.times-standard.com, click on obits.

Published in Eureka Times-Standard from Sept. 1 to Sept. 4, 2012
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