Richard West Sellars
RICHARD WEST SELLARS Historian Richard West Sellars died quietly at his home in Santa Fe on November 1, 2017, after a struggle with Alzheimer's disease. Born in Decatur, TX, in 1935, he was the son of wildcatter oilman Robert Thompson Sellars, Sr. and schoolteacher Johnnie Mae Blankenship Sellars and grew up knowing the security of a multigenerational network of relatives and friends in that small town. He left there to attend Baylor University, graduating with a degree in geology in 1957. After a few years as an independent oilman in Jackson, MS, he realized that his interests actually lay more in history, geography, and literature. He furthered his education in these fields at North Texas State University and the University of Missouri--Columbia, earning a Ph.D in Western History in 1972. Although his goal had originally been to teach on the college level, he immediately found employment with the National Park Service upon receiving his degree. Soon he wholeheartedly embraced a career that afforded not only intellectual analysis of National Park Service historical and natural park units, but also interesting travel; he visited at least 350 of these sites. From 1979 to 1988 he headed the Southwest Cultural Resources Center in Santa Fe, overseeing programs in history, archaeology, and historic architecture for the Southwest Region and Servicewide programs in submerged cultural resources. He served as acting superintendent at Pea Ridge National Military Park and San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. He also was a consultant with the Dallas County Historical Foundation on preservation and interpretation of the Texas School Book Depository and Dealey Plaza in Dallas, TX, site of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, in planning today's Sixth Floor Museum. But it was in writing and lecturing that he found the greatest satisfaction. His articles on American history and cultural and natural resource preservation appeared in numerous publications, and he frequently taught courses on preservation philosophy, policy, and practice and historic preservation at National Park Service training centers and various universities. He is best known as the author of Preserving Nature in the National Parks: A History, published in 1997 by Yale University Press and the chief catalyst for a major initiative by the National Park Service to revitalize natural resource management in the parks. After his retirement in 2008, he worked on a history of cultural resources management in the National Park Service, which remains unfinished. His achievements were recognized by the National Park Service and related organizations with the Eastern National Authors Award in 1997, the George P. Hartzog award and the U.S. Department of the Interior Meritorious Service Award in 2008, and the George Melendez Wright Award for Excellence in 2011. He will be remembered for his unwavering commitment to preservation principles and devotion to the National Park Service. He was preceded in death by his parents and his brother, Robert Thompson Sellars, Jr. Surviving members of his family include his sister, Sally Florian and her husband James, sister-in-law Sharon Sellars, cousin Ben Man and his wife Kareen, in-laws Robert and Alice Stevenson, nieces Amanda Callinan, Melinda ("Tenna") Florian, Kathryn Sellars, nephews Jason Florian and Trevor Stevenson, three great nieces, and his wife of forty years, Judith Stevenson Sellars. The family wishes to thank caregiver, Glory Samlal for her superb care during Dick's final month and PMS Hospice for their compassionate and competent efforts. There will be no funeral, but a memorial service will be held in early 2018, and his ashes will be buried in the Sellars family plot in Decatur, TX at a later date. In lieu of flowers, please direct any memorial donations to the George Wright Society, P.O. Box 65, Hancock, MI 49930-0065; Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), 962 Wayne Avenue, Suite 610, Silver Spring, MD 20910; or The Food Depot, 1222A Siler Road, Santa Fe, NM 87507-4107.
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Published by Santa Fe New Mexican from Nov. 3 to Nov. 5, 2017.
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18 Entries
It was my deep honor to have considered Dick my friend. He was kind and brilliant - often not found together. I feel like we were so very lucky to have his historical examination of the park service. I learned a lot from him and am forever grateful.
Bobbi Simpson
March 26, 2018
A dear, earnest and fun loving friend. I'll miss him!
Coxey Toogood
November 16, 2017
My heart aches for you. Sorry for your loss.
Sharon Lamb
November 13, 2017
Dear Judy My God how sad my deepest sympathy to you and your family. Dr. Sellers was a wonderful and kind man. He had a heart of GOLD! My friend Dr. Sellers will truly be missed! Lots of prayers and Hugs going your way! God Bless you and your family.
Gloria Zamora
November 13, 2017
Dick was a friend and a fine historian. We lived far away but we kept in contact. He was a truly helpful colleague with regards to NPS and Indian wars history. Most of all he was a fine person. We will miss our visits in Santa Fe and Jackson Hole. His was a life well lived.
Bob Righter % Sherry Smotj
November 8, 2017
I met Dick in Denver when I joined the Utley/Mattes team of NPS historians in 1973. We became fast friends and continued as such through most of this year. Dick was always a friendly, thoughtful, and caring individual with a devotion to history and precious sense of humor. I'll miss him greatly. My condolences to Judy.
Jerome Greene
November 6, 2017
Dick was the consummate professional, an incisive historian, and a thoughtful and helping person; the best sort of colleague. Sincere condolences to Judy and family.
Steve Adams
November 6, 2017
Judy and the whole Sellars family and friends, Our deepest condolences for the loss of a good good man. May NPS keep his spirit alive everytime we commit to excellent research and writing.
Barbara Little
November 6, 2017
A gentle man and a scholar indeed. He will be missed. My condolences, Judy.
Laura Holt
November 6, 2017
Such a wonderful man!
November 5, 2017
Dick Sellars was a great help to be, and I hope vice-versa, as we exchanged pieces of writing. I looking over his great stories on park history sent to the New York Times and he helping me with stories I wrote as public affairs officer (information officer) for the NPS Southwest Region.The depth of the information he provided for me to spice up my newspaper stories to six states was awesome and accurate. He was a great colleague and close friend.
Ben Moffett
November 4, 2017
We were privileged to know and work with Dick in the Old Santa Fe Trail building during the Regional Office days. Miss his stories. Cliff and Judy Chetwin
Judy Chetwin
November 4, 2017
I am shocked and saddened at the passing of my good friend Richard West Sellers. My condolences to Judy and family members.
November 4, 2017
Judy, Dick was such a kind, generous and thoughtful person. He translated his commitment to this nation's history, and the history of the National Park Service and its resources into scholarly work that will survive all of us. He left an amazing legacy. Please accept my deepest sympathy on your loss.
Laura Soullière Gates
November 3, 2017
Judy-- our condolences to you and your family for your-- and our-- loss of Dick. We hope that he will spend eternity visiting parks and guarding them with his spirit. We remember his friendship. May he rest in peace and joy. A sister NPS historian, Heather Huyck & NPS Charlie Clapper
Heather Huyck
November 3, 2017
Dick Sellars was a consummate scholar, a beacon of the National Park Service and a champion of the parks, a leader of the George Wright Society, and, to me personally (and to so many others), a mentor and good friend. Most of all, he was a very good man, and I will always miss him. To Judy and all the family, I send you my condolences and join you in reflecting on all the good memories we share.
David Harmon
November 3, 2017
Sincere sympathy to you, Judith, regarding the loss of our dear long-time close National Park Service coworker, Dick, with whom I'll always appreciate having had the opportunity to work. If you need help with the memorial service, please get in touch.
Rebecca M/ Post
November 3, 2017
I was fortunate to call Richard a friend as a result of our NPS employment. I have fond memories of him and his dry wit. May God bless you and help you Judith as you mourn.
Margie Fresquez
November 3, 2017
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