Victor "Vic" Scheffer, of Seattle, was likely Washington's longest-lived naturalist when he died at age 104.
Victor “Vic” Scheffer, of Seattle, was likely Washington’s longest-lived naturalist when he died at age 104.
He had the good fortune of remaining sharp to his death Sept. 20, said Mr. Scheffer’s son-in-law, Bill Carlstrom, of Freeland, Island County. “He was in the last two weeks of his life recalling the species of gopher in the Mima Mounds,” Carlstrom said.
Mr. Scheffer was a co-founder of the Nature Conservancy’s Washington chapter and one of the longest active members of the Seattle Audubon Society. “Victor was a passionate advocate,” said Shawn Cantrell, executive director of Seattle Audubon.
Mr. Scheffer was the first recipient, in 2005, of the Seattle Audubon science award for his long service to science, and the chapter, where he was an active member for more than 30 years.
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He was also science adviser to BirdNote, the popular radio program, originally launched by Seattle Audubon. “He helped ground truth all the fun facts and stories, making sure that program maintains a high scientific credibility,” Cantrell said.
“He was a character,” Cantrell added. In his late 90s, Cantrell asked him, “How did you end up getting involved in Seattle Audubon?”
Mr. Scheffer — married 52 years to his late wife, Beth — joked, “To meet girls.” Said Cantrell, “He always had that little twinkle in his eye, that little mischievous side.”
He also was a co-founder of the Hilltop Community in Bellevue, a cohousing project he helped establish.
Born in Manhattan, Kan., on Nov. 27, 1906, he moved with his family to Puyallup when he was 8. A marine biologist, Mr. Scheffer earned his doctorate in zoology from the University of Washington, where he also taught from 1966 to 1977 as a part-time lecturer.
He spent most of his career at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service where, over the course of more than 33 years, his work included studying everything from marine mammals to seaweed and ranged all over the world, from Alaska to Antarctica to Japan to Siberia, and all up and down the West Coast.
Mr. Scheffer also was the author of 15 books, including “The Year of the Whale,” which received the John Burrough’s medal for best natural history book in 1969, and is credited by many in helping to spark the worldwide effort to ban whale hunting. Mr. Scheffer also was the first chairman of the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission from 1973-76.
He received many honors, including The Joseph Wood Krutch Medal from the Humane Society in 1975, for his commitment to defending nature and animals and preventing cruelty, putting him in the company of Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall and Richard Leakey.
In addition to his engagement and recognition at the national level, Mr. Scheffer was deeply committed to and effective in causes closer to home.
Notes Robin Stanton, of the Washington chapter of the Nature Conservancy, Mr. Scheffer was among the first to recognize the Mima Mounds near Olympia as a unique geological feature that should be preserved, and he counted that among his greatest accomplishments.
He was just plain a nice person, those who knew him even briefly noticed.
“I met him when he was 100,” Stanton said. “We met in the lobby at University House and there wasn’t a chair for me. He jumped up and scurried across the room, picked up a chair and brought it back for me to sit in. I just loved him from that one interview.”
His family reports in a biography that when asked to what he attributed his successful career, Mr. Scheffer answered: “a sense of wonder.”
Mr. Scheffer is survived by his sister, Barbara Steiniche, of Seattle; son Brian Scheffer, of Olympia; daughters Susan Irvine, of Hawaii, and Ann Carlstrom, of Freeland; eight grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made in his name to the Nature Conservancy’s Washington chapter or the Audubon Society.
Services will be private.
Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or email@example.com