North Coast CNPS

Sawyer Memorial

sawyer 240 85bbLast night [August 19], if you felt a shifting of the spheres, heard a sighing of the (conifer) trees, and felt a sudden void, that was the spirit of John Sawyer passing. May he rest in peace, in his mountains.
Carol Ralph, president North Coast Chapter

A picnic for friends and family in celebration of John's life and accomplishments was held at Patrick's Point State Park on September 22nd.
(contact family at jos2 at humboldt .edu)

 9/4/12 obituary hosted by the Times Standard, includes guestbook - link

(8/21/12 communication from Mike Mesler, professor at Humboldt State University, to the HSU Biology Department)

Dear colleagues,

I'm writing to tell you the sad news that our friend and colleague, Professor Emeritus John Sawyer, passed away on Sunday evening.  John joined the HSU faculty in 1966 and retired in 2000.   Over the many years, he taught General Ecology, Plant Ecology, Desert Ecology, and Alpine Ecology as well as lab sections in Plant Taxonomy.  His particular forte was graduate education; he mentored more than 35 graduate students, many of whom now professional ecologists.   John was a community ecologist and widely regarded as an expert on the vegetation of California.  He was also an excellent general field biologist, an avid backpacker, and a very good plant taxonomist.  Many of the plant specimens in our herbarium, especially ones from remote montane localities, bear his name as collector.  John's special loves were woody groups like conifers and members of the rose, cascara, and huckleberry families.  He liked to call the herbaceous plants that I study "ground trash", but I suspect that he loved them too.   Along with his many former students and friends across the state and country, I'm going to miss John.

I'll let you know when we have details about the memorial.


 (8/23/12 communication from Brett Hall, president CNPS)

With deep sadness we are sharing the following news. Please distribute this message widely through CNPS and among your friends a colleagues. John Sawyer inspired countless students and native plant people.

(from Todd Keeler-Wolf)

Dear Friends and Colleagues;

It is with great sadness and loss, that I report the death of one of the founding members of the CNPS Vegetation Committee, John Sawyer. As you all know, John was there at the beginning when Michael Barbour convened the first meeting and has seen us through 2 editions of the Manual of California Vegetation, and innumerable other mileposts in the existence of our committee. John addressed his cancer as he did many other problems, in a practical and an analytical way. He was indefatigable and dauntless in his spirit through several mutated bouts of the disease and I really thought he would be able to beat back yet another one. However, this was not to be. His doctors told him in the way that he would have wanted to hear it -- the options were exhausted and his life could be prolonged somewhat, but the quality of it (most expressly his ability to walk and get around on his own) could not. He declined quickly from late July to mid-August and died comfortably, at home last weekend.

He loved and cherished his affiliation and relationship with CNPS, extending well beyond the Vegetation Committee to leadership, scholarship, and rare plant list aspects. John has influenced so many of us as botanists, ecologists, lovers of nature, and biogeography. His essence will continue to live on in our hearts and minds. He mentored and worked with scores of students, and colleagues including me, Julie Evens, Jim Andre, Josie Crawford, and many others who continue to play active roles in our committee and the Society.

I know that the legacy of CNPS and John Sawyer are both deeply intertwined. Some of us are already discussing some things that the Society can do to commemorate his life and his dedication. However, at this point let us just pause and reflect on the effect he has had on all of us.

Julie and I did speak with his wife Jane, and she is well supported by a wealth of family and friends. She tells us that there will be a picnic held in his honor toward the middle or end of September (Sept. 15 or Sept. 22 are likely dates), at one of his favorite places, Patrick’s Point State Park, Humboldt Co.


Todd Keeler-Wolf, Ph.D.
Senior Vegetation Ecologist
Biogeographic Data Branch
California Department of Fish and Game

Brett Hall
CNPS State Board President
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