Dr. William A. Weber
* November 16, 1918, New York City – † March 18, 2020 Longmont, CO
It is with deep sorrow we announce the passing at the age of 101 of our dearly loved father, grandfather and great-grandfather – Dr. William Alfred Weber. He passed away on March 18, 2020 peacefully in his sleep with family present at the TRU Community Care Hospice of the Longmont United Hospital in Longmont, Colorado, while recovering from a recent fall. His final views through his windows were of his beloved Rocky Mountains, including a panorama view of the Indian and Long’s Peaks.
Dr. Weber leaves a rich and lasting legacy, both personal and professional. His family, friends and colleagues the world over will dearly miss him. His infectious, child-like curiosity and speculations over the workings and wonders of nature have been an inspiration to all who knew him. His eclectic knowledge and storytelling abilities were astounding. His wide and deep scientific knowledge and works, encompassing lichenology, bryology, and vascular plants, will continue to inspire botanists for years to come.
This website will be maintained and expanded as a lasting memorial to Dr. Weber’s memory and work. Our journal Acta Botanica Weberi will continue to issue Dr. Weber’s hitherto unpublished and unfinished writings. The latest issue of Acta Botanica Weberi, ABW3 Philonotis in Colorado, has just been published today – Dr. Weber was still able to contribute final touches to this issue, but regrettably could not see its publication. This is thus the first posthumous issue.
We would invite anyone who wishes to post their memories of Dr. Weber here below:
22 thoughts on “Obituary”
Today, while looking into the differences between Phacelia and Besseya, I happened to find out that Dr. Bill Weber passed away this past March. I was fortunate to have known him through my studies at CU Boulder (EPOB 1971-1975) and later working as a biologist for a local environmental consulting firm. I was often tasked with delivering dried plant specimens to him for expert identification. When I arrived at the herbarium, sometimes he was to be found rollerblading around the large room wearing a muscle man t-shirt! He was very exacting and gave me a hard time for not properly tying the ropes on my plant press. I practiced and learned the proper tying technique and still use it to this day! Later on, I used to see him wearing a colorful Hawaiian shirt at the Gilbert and Sullivan Festval at CU Music School, we were both big fans. Dr Weber was definitely a major influence in my pursuit of and love for botany. My condolences to his family.
In 1982 I moved from a post in Washington D.C. organizing oceanographic expeditions to become the Director of the University of Colorado Museum, University officials asked me why I would want to make such a move. I replied that I was very interested in the changes in Earth’s climate that seemed to be beginning and were being discussed by a few people at the National Research Council. I explained that Colorado, with its great diversity of environments and elevations would be among the first places in the US to feel the effects. At that time literally no one on the CU campus had heard anything about climate change, but I was hired anyway. When I told the Museum faculty about my ideas, it was only Bill Weber who picked up on the idea. He realized that plants were integrators of climate parameters (temperature, moisture, interannual variability, etc.), He immediately recognized that the herbarium collections he had made over many years had taken on a new importance as a baseline for studies of changing climate. Although he knew nothing about the physical and chemical intricacies of climate studies, he realized that the work he had been doing over the years had a much greater significance than he had originally expected. We became close friends.
I remember when he came to me to tell me the herbarium was running out of space; the storage cabinets had filled up the room available for them. I told him about the compactor storage system used by the Naturhistorisches Museum in Basel, Switzerland, where I had been a frequent visitor. In that system all the storage cabinets are together in a sort of giant cube. There are no permanent aisles, but a single aisle can be opened wherever needed. A few months later Bill came to me to tell me he had been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation to set up what I believe was the first compactor storage system in the US.
The last time I saw Bill was in a checkout line at a bookstore aa few years ago. He came over to thank me for being his friend – and I thanked him very much for what he had done for the Museum.
Bill Weber was a great friend and wonderful scientist and his heritage will take on increasing importance in the future.
My Dad, the late Dr Brij Mohan Kapoor, worked with Dr Weber in the 1960’s. I was recently in communication with Dr Weber from 2013 to 2017 about the release of the Dr Askell Love secret documents to the Hunt Botanical Library in 2018. I just emailed Dr Weber and then decided to search his name and saddened that we have lost him. What a great botanist, great history, who was mentally lucid until the end it appears.
Over the last ten years I would run into Dr. Weber on campus or as he rode the SKIP bus. He was so generous in spirit, curious, open and kind. His love for CU Boulder was unmatched. I wish I could have been a student of his, but am grateful I was able to have him make an impression on me and learn more about his life and contributions. Blessings to his family.
I first met Professor Weber in 1974 when I came to CU straight out of graduate school at Duke University. He immediately became a deeply knowledgeable mentor and, somewhat surprisingly, a willing tutor to this taxonomically challenged population biologist. I brought him specimen after specimen which he almost instantly recognized and identified. For those outside the plant identification specialty circles, I assert this is a most remarkable capability. We argued, collegially, about ‘splitters and lumpers’, about the biological species concept vs the type specimen concept and, especially, about the significance of lateral gene transfer on those concepts. No one I have ever met worked harder, longer and with more dedication to his profession than William Weber. His work will remain, despite his death. I honor him as a true professional.
My wife, Kim, and I first met Bill Weber through the Colorado Native Plant Society where he was teaching a seminar on mosses. Bill was one of those people I wish I had met when I was in college. We would occasionally drive up to see him in Boulder. When he found out that we love to cook, he asked if we could prepare a particular recipe for Moussaka that he had collected on one of his botanical trips to Thessaloniki, Greece. We agreed and set the date. Bill invited his co-author Ron Whitmann to join us, and he provided not one, not two, but three bottles of a really nice Retsina. The meal and the wine were extraordinary! Because we had just polished off the wine and were not fit to drive back to our Franktown, Bill suggested we watch “The Best of Friends”, a PBS televised production about George Bernard Shaw, the Irish author; Sydney Cockerell, an English museum curator (and brother of Theodor Cockerell, zoologist turned Colorado botantist); and Dame Laurentia McLauchlin, a Scottish Benedictine nun. After the movie, Bill excused himself and crawled under his staircase to retrieve a very dusty bottle of 50 year old Mesimarja Likööri, made in Finland from the arctic raspberry. It was a night we’ll cherish always. Bill was a phenomenal teacher and an extremely gifted botanist. May he rest in peace.
My first memory of Dr. Weber was his talk in in 1973 on given in the Megaron at the University of Colorado’s Mountain Research Station recent his field work in the mountains of the then Soviet Union. He was so interested in the similarity of the Asian flora and ours in Colorado. Very recently, I always looked forward to my check deposits at the Table Mesa Elevations Credit Union where I would find him sitting in a comfortable arm chair always ready to chat about plants, always willing to offer his knowledge. We will all miss him.
I am saddened by the loss of Dr. Weber.
Years ago, in the 1990s, I had the honor of going into the field with Dr. Weber. He led a hike for Rangers and staff of Boulder Mountain Parks (in the 90s, this was just a handful of people and thus an intimate gathering). It was a magical morning in late spring on Walter Orr Roberts Mesa. The cloud veil was low and the diffuse light made the colors of the lichen glow.
We all knew how special it was to be with this man. Trying to curb our enthusiasm and not bombard him with questions, we patiently and reverently listened to his answers. But he, too, was enthusiastic. Each time he stopped to show us a particular plant or lichen he would hand off the tiny dog he was carrying to his assistant (do I remember it was a Papillion?). Then he would teach us. We were corrected on our Latin pronunciation and enlightened by his depth of knowledge. His knowledge helped me and others collect our baseline forest inventory data for the Mountain Parks.
On behalf of the Rangers with the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, I offer our condolences to the family of Dr. Weber.
Yesterday, on a hike west of Ft. Collins, I found a hard to identify buttercup. I opened my pack, removed my hand lens, as well as Bill’s Colorado Flora Eastern Slope, sat down on the pine needles, and was able to identify the beautiful and very small early spring buttercup. From my first “what is this plant” visit to Bill at the herbarium at least 30 years ago, to the last annual meeting of the Colorado Native Society, I have appreciated Bill’s patience with beginners, his intense love and curiosity of the natural world, his smile and wonderful sense of humor. He will be missed, …but I will still take him with me on many more hikes!
The University Libraries in 2014 honored Dr. Weber as a CU Legend, an “outstanding educator and researcher who impacted the world.” On that snowy, single-digit evening over 120 friends, students, peers and educators packed into Norlin’s largest conference room gathered to celebrate the life and work of this extraordinary naturalist. We will miss our friend. With condolences
Barb Losoff and Andrew Violet
In the 1950’s Dr. Weber told me about Icelandic lichen and that there are mosses and other flora that, once injured by careless people, can take a lifetime to recover. From that day as third or fourth grader at Whittier, I have taken great care to avoid harming such things. Thank you Dr. Weber, for all you did. Just for me, I thank you for making one kid into a lifelong environmentalist.
I met Bill soon after arriving on the CU campus in the early 1960s when I saw his slide show on the Galapagos–my first introduction to these islands. Not only was he a great botanist, but he was also a fabulous story teller and singer of Gilbert and Sullivan. He could do entire patter songs with a twinkle in his eye and without losing a beat.
I have fond memories of Bill. I only knew him for two days.
In November 2018 the County set up a voting center in the lounge area at the Brookdale Center where Bill lived. I was one of the volunteers staffing this voting center.
Bill came down to the voting area often during those two days and we all got to talking with him. I asked him about his life and tried to draw him out. He was very personable and easy to chat with. He mentioned he was almost 100 years old. It felt good to feel his human spirit and I made a note to myself to be like Bill when I reached my nineties.
I have thought about him over the year and told myself I would drop into the Elevations Credit Union where he hung out I think. Alas I never did.
I will say a prayer for Bill and for his family and think about him on my long run. He reached me and I’m glad I met him. We need more like him.
Sincerely, Reed Cobb
September, 1987. I just arrived in Boulder from Vermont. Driving cross country with my dad, and preparing for an exam as an open space ranger, I had found a used copy of Rocky Mountain Flora (with the field binding) and was studying up. I dropped by the herbarium, and was signing in when a very round man of indeterminate age in an orange jumpsuit came roller skating up to the counter where I was signing the guests register. A small dog ran behind him, and she couldn’t quite stop quickly enough on the linoleum and careened sideways into the wall. “I’m Dr. William Weber!” the man in orange shouted, “Who are you?” I told him my name, and said, “So you are the guy responsible for “Negundo aceroides”? I asked. His eyes sparkled, as he said “Yes, and would you like to discuss that over a cup of tea?” Well I was smitten from that day. I was pleased to have the chance to be in the field with Dr. Weber, often thanks to Lynn Riedel who would let me know about special trips to examine mosses in the Coal Creek drainage, or lichens on some rock face. He was a frequent speaker at Colorado Native Plant Society meetings and I believe workshops and the tales he told. Sometimes I felt like I only understood about 5% of what he had to say.
Mid summer. Foothills trail near where it cuts through the railroad track. Keying out a plant. As I have torn the flower apart in my hand to be able to respond to the couplets in the key, I start to feel a sharp uncomfortable tingling in my fingers. The part of the key reads. “Plant covered in stinging hairs (Sorry!)” I laughed as I looked over my shoulder expecting to see those twinkling eyes. Godspeed William Weber! And thank you. You helped make this place home for me.
I was so sad to learn of bill Weber’s passing. He was a young professor when I studied for my Ph.D. from 1954-1958 in the University of Colorado Biology Department that was housed in the Hale Science Building back then. Bill was always helpful in his friendly manner when I had any botanical questions. It seemed like there was never a question that he couldn’t answer! He did so much to advance Colorado’s knowledge in this area. I always had great respect for Bill and his good advice. He will indeed be missed. I am holding him and his family in the light. -Oakleigh Thorne, II, Founder, Thorne Ecological Institute (now dba Thorne Nature Experience), Boulder, CO.
I will always think of Bill Weber as very much alive!
His op-ed published in the Daily Camera 10 or 20 years ago describing the value of our Open Space and Mountain Parks system as exemplified by the micro-climate and unique plant communities protected in Long Canyon is one of his many quintessential contributions to his hometown.
Over the last several years, I would cross paths with him and visit a couple times each year around the Table Mesa Shopping Center (in King Soopers or in “his” chair at the Credit Union, as seen in the great photo! printed with his obituary) or on the SKIP near there. He always had a smile and something new to talk about.
What a genuine Boulderite!
I will always think of Bill Weber as very much alive!
His op-ed in the Daily Camera 10 or 20 years ago describing the value of our Open Space and Mountain Parks system as exemplified in the micro-climate and unique plant communities in Long Canyon is one of his many quintessential contributions to our community.
Over the last several years, I would cross paths with him and enjoy visiting a couple times each year around the Table Mesa Shopping Center (in King Soopers or in “his” chair at the Credit Union, as seen in the Camera’s great obituary photo!), or on the SKIP near there. He always had something new and exciting to talk about.
What a genuine Boulderite!
I will always remember his comment regarding the wax current, Ribes cereum, “The berries make a very fine, resinous, home-made wine” He will be missed greatly.
Dr. Weber –
I know that if you ever met him, you probably experience the trial by fire, followed by a wonderfully helpful man. But first there was that trial by fire that starts with some kind of challenge. Some people hated it; I was used to it because my dad was the same way. It was the standard way he said hi to his friends, it was some level of challenge, perhaps it is an Irish thing or German, or just old thing. The Irish thing seems appropriate for Dr. Weber, who it seemed to revel in the personality of a leprechaun when given the opportunity.
I got to see a lot of changes in the herbarium and admired how quickly Dr. Weber and Ron Wittmann and the herbarium team adapted and excelled. Computer printed labels for example. You know, they didn’t always exist. Weber and Wittmann figured that out.
I never took a class from Dr. Weber and I never got to go on a real field trip with him, so I know him only from the herbarium. Except for one hike with him, I’ll look for the pictures.
When I was learning plant names I would bring in large bundles of numbered specimens from work and have him ID them all. That helped me to learn quickly. His Colorado Flora was always with me. There are stories as well as taxonomy in those field guides, and once when I was camping and stuck in a 2-day snow storm, I read it just for the stories and mini-BotanyClasses. Sounds boring but it was great.
Nobody worked harder, and he loved it. It is good when those kinds of souls live a century and a little.
So sorry to hear this news of Bill’s passing. He built an amazing collection at CU-Boulder, and his scientific work was as monumental. His impact on the Museum of Natural History, and on the fields of Botany, Bryology and Lichenology, will be remembered for generations. On behalf of the faculty, staff and students of the Museum of Natural History at the University of Colorado, Boulder, we extend our condolences to his family, and give thanks for all Bill contributed to the scientific research, collection-building and stewardship, and education in the formal and informal realms of the institution. We will all miss him. Patrick Kociolek, Director of the Museum of Natural History.
I regret never getting to meet great “Uncle Bill“ as well as “Aunt” Sammy but I’ve heard stories about both if them for years. I once wrote Uncle Bill a letter about his opinions about herbology back in early 90’s as I was considering attending college at the University of Colorado in Boulder. I often wish I had decided to attend there and had gotten to know that side of my family better. What a great man who lived a long and beautiful life and left behind a legacy of amazing people whom I Love! ❤️ We will all miss him and honor his memory.
-Chris Colette Stephenson (nee Burchett nee Cordrey)
Dr. Weber was tremendously helpful to me in the research I was doing for my biography of Roger Tory Peterson. I’m glad that I got to know him a little bit. He was an amazing person. Please accept my sincerest condolences.
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