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Michael Churkin Jr.

1932 - 2016 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Michael Churkin Jr. Obituary

January 6, 1932 - May 12, 2016

Michael Churkin Jr. was born in 1932 and grew up in the city of San Francisco, CA at a time when you could still hunt ducks, dig clams, fish, and forage for mushrooms on the edge of the city. He was a food-gatherer his entire life; his mother was born in Blagoveshensk, Siberia and his father in Enisiesk, Siberia.

Their parents, involved with the Trans-Siberian railroad, lived later in Harbin, China. Mike's father and mother married and emigrated in 1922 from Harbin to San Francisco where Mike grew up. During the Korean War he graduated from the Monterey language school at the top of the class and served as a Russian language interpreter in Berlin for the U.S. army. Following the war, he attended UC Berkeley on the GI Bill and graduated with honors in Geology in 1957, followed by a M.S. in Paleontology. During his studies at Northwestern University where he earned a Ph.D. in 1961, he met his wife Carol Bjork, and they were married in Chicago in 1959. After post-doctoral work at Columbia University, in 1962 the Churkins moved to the Bay area where Mike was employed by the U.S. Geological Survey, Alaskan branch from 1962-1982. He mapped in detail the geology of many areas in Alaska, reconstructing earth history, including plate tectonics involving Alaska and the arctic. Fluent in Russian and interested in geologic correlations between Russia and Alaska, through the National Academy of Sciences, Mike was a guest of the USSR Academy of Sciences for a year in 1967, his wife and sons accompanying him and again for lengthy stays in 1971, 1975, and 1977. He was chief geologist on Leg 21 of the Deep Sea Drilling program off the coast of Australia and New Zealand. Mike served as Associate editor of the journals Geology and Bulletin of America Association of Petroleum Geologists.

The Churkins moved to Anchorage, AK in 1982 when Mike was hired by Arco Inc. to answer unsolved technical problems in their Alaska oil and gas search. He and Carol organized the first American hunt in the Soviet far east. After Peristroika, Mike accepted the offer from Conoco Oil Co. and Dupont as a consultant for Russian Joint Ventures, 1989-1995, which culminated in a large joint venture in the North. His many Russian friends called him "American son of the Russian people". Throughout his scientific career, Mike published more than 100 maps, books, and articles. At age 50, Mike and Carol purchased a prune ranch near Yuba City which they managed from afar, planning to eventually retire to farming and the country. They did and have been tired at the farm the past years, growing prunes, walnuts, pecans, and olives for oil. He and Carol also continued their interests in developing land and construction of residential buildings.

Mike, whose older son Michael died in 2007, is survived by his beloved wife and fellow adventurer, Carol; son Lars; granddaughter Sonya; nieces, nephews, and much loved family members and friends. Sharing life with Mike has been a wonderful adventure. His was a life well lived.

Memorial service for Mike will be held Thursday, May 19, 2016 at 1:30 p.m. at St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, 1390 Franklin Ave. Yuba City, CA.

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Published in Appeal Democrat from May 17 to May 19, 2016
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