Reginald A. Saner
1928 - 2021
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On April 19, 2021, during one of the last snowstorms of the season, Reginald A. Saner, Professor and Poet, passed away at his home in Boulder, Colorado. He was born to Reginald Alva and Catherine Marie Saner on December 30, 1928, in Jacksonville, Illinois, the second of five children. Growing up surrounded by the woods and farmlands of southern Illinois, Reg became a competent hunter of birds and small game for the family table and a standout baseball player. Eating a rabbit that Reg had shot involved the whole family in a ritual of careful chewing, lest they chip a tooth on a piece of buckshot. After a baseball game in the Illinois heat, perhaps the second of a double-header, Reg could down a quart of ice cream in seconds. On Sundays, following Mass, and after discharging his duties as janitor at his father's business, the afternoon could be devoted to golf, or swimming at the local pool. In cold-weather months he enjoyed basketball and playing DJ whenever kids gathered at his house, drawn in by his impressive record collection. Attending St. Norbert College in Wisconsin, he joined the Army ROTC, receiving his B.A. in 1951. Within a few months of graduation, he reported for active duty in the Army. Reg first saw mountains during this time, when he was sent to Big Delta, Alaska, for Alpine and Arctic Survival training. He earned his Combat Infantry Badge and the U.N. Medal with battle stars as an infantry platoon leader in the Korean War, serving with the 25th Infantry Division. After the war, he began to study Renaissance culture at the University of Illinois, where he met Anne Costigan, another graduate student. They were married on August 16, 1958. Driving west for their honeymoon, together they saw the mountain meadows and high, clear lakes of the Colorado Rockies for the first time. Reg would later dedicate one of his books "For Anne, who came with me into the mountains." When Reg won a Fulbright Scholarship, he, Anne and, by this time, son Timothy, set sail for Europe on the SS Constitution in 1960. The year abroad, spent primarily in Italy, confirmed what would be a life-long love of the country and culture. Reg and Anne would return to Italy several more times over the years. In 1962 Reg received his PhD from the University of Illinois, and later that same year began his employment with the University of Colorado as an Assistant Professor in the English Department. Becoming a full Professor in 1973, Reg continued teaching until his retirement in 1999, having received several awards for teaching excellence during his tenure at CU, most notably the Hazel Barnes Award in 1993. Drawing inspiration from the landscapes of the West, and visits to explore remnants of Anasazi life and culture found throughout the four-corners region, Reg's writing focused on Man's relationship to the natural world. In 1975 he won the inaugural Walt Whitman Award for his volume of poetry titled "Climbing into the Roots." In 1983 his adopted state recognized him with the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts. In 1990 he was invited by the Rockefeller Foundation to be a resident scholar at their villa in Bellagio, Italy. He received the Wallace Stegner Award from the Center for the American West in 1997. His adopted hometown of Boulder caught up in 1999 when they named him the first Poet Laureate of the city. The 2010 annual conference of Associated Writing Programs presented a program titled "Honoring Reg Saner," and in 2014 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Colorado Humanities & Center for the Book. Other published volumes of poetry include "So This Is the Map" in 1981, "Essay on Air" in 1984, and "Red Letters" in 1989. His prose writing was published in "The Four-Cornered Falcon" in 1993, "Reaching Keet Seel" in 1998, "The Dawn Collector" in 2005, "Living Large in Nature" in 2010, and in numerous anthologies and periodicals, most notably The Georgia Review. Reg was preceded in death by sisters Elizabeth Saner and Rose Marie Voelker, brother Paul, and son Timothy. He is survived by his sister Dorothy Matern, spouse Anne, son Nicholas, and daughter-in-law Monica. In contrast to today's plugged-in, fast-paced lifestyle, in which one is at all times partially aware of much, but deeply aware of nothing, Reg lived most fully when given time to pause and contemplate, as in the close of one of his favorite essays, centered on the geological history of the Grand Canyon: "For more than an hour I enjoy the living wind on my face, just dawdling, watching the henna ravens of sunset, looking miles up Tsegi Canyon, deciphering on crossbedded formations what that wind's paleo-flow has written. Is writing. On me, on canyon walls, on everywhere. I give up trying to think what cannot be thought: Time's great pressure and strength. The littlest causes, their long continuance. Their cool, patient luster inside each blowing grain."

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Published in The Daily Camera on May 9, 2021.
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