As I write this, I am completely devastated. I can't speak, so I thought this would be the best way to express my feelings. My major professor from graduate school, and one of the most influential people in my life, passed away last Friday at his home. I missed the services.
George Folkerts was an incredible person. His passion for nature, conservation, biology and field biology will never be matched. He taught me so many things... about science, and about myself. There are memories that I have forever in my mind of class trips we took, singing by the campfire and hiking, standing with our arms outstretched around a huge tulip tree in the Joyce Kilmer Slickrock Wilderness, and George lecturing us on the "real world." His message was simple - the pursuit of knowledge is the most important thing in life, and untouched areas of nature are the "real world."
George was the only person that I ever met who could believe so much in God and evolution at the same time. He made me stand with leeches attached to my legs in the middle of a North Carolina swamp, and he told me I better not cry, that they wouldn't hurt me. He made me realize that I could overcome my fears in the pursuit of knowledge, and I will take that lesson with me always.
I got to see George about two months ago. He met Hays and me at his favorite place in Auburn, Buffalo's. Our visit was short. We had plans to go into the field this spring. He looked good. I am SO glad that I had that last visit with him.
George had a wonderful, full life. I cannot even describe to you all how many lives he touched, how much valuable conservation work that he did, and how many smiles he put on people's faces each day. I know that I would not be the person I am today had I not known George. He was a wonderful teacher, and an even better friend.
This picture is from the first day of our three week journey in the Southern Appalachians.
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