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Stephen Taber III

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April 17, 1924 - May 22, 2008

Mr. Stephen Taber III, a world-recognized honey bee researcher, of Elgin, S.C, died Thursday, May 22, 2008, at Kershaw County Medical Center in Camden, S.C. He was 84 years old.

He was born on April 17, 1924, to Dr. Stephen Taber II and Bessie Ray Taber of Columbia, S.C. His father was the South Carolina State Geologist from 1912 to 1947 and the head of the Department of Geology at the University of South Carolina, where he was involved in the engineering of the Santee-Cooper Dam among many other projects.

Steve became interested in bees at an early age, using the banks of the Broad River in Columbia as his research yard. He graduated from University High School in 1942 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy as an Aviation Cadet in October that same year. Steve was honorably discharged from the Navy in September 1945 after the end of World War II.

In 1950, he graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, with a Bachelor of Science, specializing in Bee Research under the tutelage of Professor C.L. Farrar. His first position was with the Entomology Research Division of USDA as an assistant to Dr. O. Mackenson in Baton Rouge, La. This is where he met his longtime friend Murray Blum.

After 15 years in Baton Rouge, he was transferred to the USDA Bee Research Center in Tucson, Ariz., where, in his words, "he was his own instructor." After his retirement from USDA, he moved to California and founded "Honey Bee Genetics." Steve traveled extensively teaching, lecturing, and researching. He lived in France, continuing his genetic research with bees, for a few years before returning to the Columbia area.

Some of his students are leaders in the world of beekeeping research today. His book, "Breeding Super Bees," will attest to some of his research and his studies around the world. His articles and research publications are still being referenced by honey bee researchers worldwide. Articles written by Steve, and his collaborative efforts with others, appeared in numerous publications for more than 50 years. They include "American Bee Journal," "Gleanings in Bee Culture," "Journal of Economic Entomology," "Journal of Apicultural Research" and "Beekeepers Quarterly."

The life and legacy of Steve Taber is one that will remain in the hearts of those who knew him. His knowledge and mannerisms have molded the lives of all those he touched. He will never be forgotten.

One of his students writes: "Taber was the most brilliant and wonderfully eccentric bee researcher, ever. He also was the best teacher; he made us question everything we knew or took for granted, and then transformed those questions into creative and constructive research problems - all while teasing and yelling and laughing wildly and free."

He was preceded in death by his two older sisters, Dr. Elsie Taber and Molly Denton. Survivors include his eight children: Caroline Kauffman of Colorado; Stephen L. Taber, Louis Taber and Ray Taber of Arizona; Eugenie Taber of Texas; and Guyle Taber, Brian Taber and Sarah Taber of California. Also surviving him are his six grandchildren, Megan Eichenlaub, Stephen Ray Taber, Lucas Taber, Grant Taber, Wyatt Taber and Owen P. Taber; and two great-grandchildren, Stephen Colter Taber and Nicole Marie Taber.

There will be a memorial service at the Unitarian Universalist Church, 2701 Heyward St, Columbia, S.C., on Sunday, June 15, 2008, at 2 p.m. Friends and family will be received in the reception hall after the service.

Donations in Stephen Taber's name will be accepted for the "Stephen Taber SCBA Young Beekeepers Fund" at South Carolina Beekeepers Association and for honey bee research at The Foundation for the Preservation of Honey Bees, Inc.

His cremated remains will be interred at the Ft. Jackson Memorial Cemetery in Columbia, S.C.

Published in The Reporter on June 8, 2008
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