Celebrating the life, passion, and mission of a great naturalist, teacher, and friend

Friday, January 11, 2008

Stories and Remembrances

Here is a place to post stories and thoughts about George. Click the "comments" hyperlink below and follow the instructions. As this is a moderated blog, comments will not appear immediately, but will be posted as soon as possible.

Monday, January 7, 2008


Below, in reverse chronological order, are messages from the guest book on the Opelika-Auburn News website, which will be up through January 15:
January 15, 2008

Dr. Folkerts was the most likable and intelligent professor I have ever met. He seemed to truly enjoy every aspect of teaching and cared for his students. I had him several years ago for evolution and I still pass along some of his interesting and funny stories he shared in lectures. In my opinion he was one of Auburn's most known and likable professors. He was the kind of professor who made learing fun and interactive. I will never forget taking a test in the morning and then having a drink with him on trivia night. I still can't fathom how he knew so much trivia. I will keep his family in my thoughts and prayers.
Michael Gamotis (Birmingham, AL)

January 15, 2008

Although I only knew George through Debbie and was never one of his students, I was aware of the incredibly positive influence he had my on fellow students in the Biology department at Auburn. I know he sparked a love for the natural world in many of his students and I regret never going on one of his famous Wetland Biology field trips. Auburn University has lost an invaluable asset and an irreplaceable teacher. I was deeply saddened to hear about his passing and my thoughts and feelings go out to Debbie and Molly.

Chad Noblet (Birmingham, AL)

January 15, 2008

One morning a student of mine brought in a salamander I couldn't readily identify. I called George and described it to him. He said "I'll be there shortly." To my surprise he knocked on my classroom door exactly 90mins. later. I showed him the exotic species. He was disturbed but interested. My point is, no one but George would have immediately dropped what they were doing and drive 45 miles to see a salamander. This kind of passion is what George was all about. I will truly miss him. My sympathies go out to his family.

Fletcher Scott (Alexander City, AL)

January 15, 2008

I was saddend to hear of the passing of George. Dr. Folkerts clearly left a positive footprint upon the earth. He will be missed.

Brian Butterfield (TN)

January 14, 2008

Please accept my deepest sympathies.

Francisco Cabrera-Rodriguez (Santa Cruz de Tenerife)

January 12, 2008

I am who I am because of my parents first, and after that because of George. He was my mentor and my friend for 25 years. I was so lucky to have had countless good times with George and Debbie, both as a student and in the years since. Exploring pitcher plant bogs, longleaf sandhills, the Escambia backswamp, Red Hills ravines, Black Belt prairies, Piedmont granite outcrops, Tennessee Valley cedar glades, coastal dunes, the Mobile-Tensaw delta, Appalachian hellbender streams, and so many other places that George loved and knew so amazingly well. And of course there was the pool playing, occasional singing of road songs, enjoying all manner of trivia, and discussing the human condition over a beer or two. George had a truly wonderful life, and those of us who knew him are the richer for it. Our sense of loss is so great now, and although I cannot imagine what it is like for Debbie, Molly, Merrill, and Evan, I believe George’s greatest legacy to his students is the conservation ethic that so many of us still carry. May that flame never be extinguished.

Mark Bailey (Andalusia, AL)

January 11, 2008

George was my freshman bio lab instructor in 1966, then he disappeared. Suddenly he was back a few years later and was kind enough to serve on my MS committee in '73. We saw George and Debbie in the early 80s when they stayed with us in Wytheville (VA) the weekend he was the guest speaker at the Mt. Rogers Naturalist Rally at my invitation.

And while I've mostly left biology as my day job, I never stopped seeing the world through the eyes I was taught to use by George Folkerts. And I, in turn, have tried to pass that torch to my students, and now to those who read what I write about nature here and there.

Let us feel not less but more force in the world for good with George's passing, each of us suffused with some of his love, hope and drive to protect, honor and celebrate the natural world while there is still time.

Fred First (Floyd, VA)

January 10, 2008

I knew George for a very short time, but his affect on my life has been very profound. I was saddened to hear of his passing, and my deepest sympathies to the Folkerts family.

Keith Ray (Auburn, AL)

January 10, 2008

Dr. Folkerts was a great teacher. He definitely opened my eyes to new things and was a very inspirational man. Taking classes with him was a joy and he helped my love for science grow. He will be missed by many and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

Elizabeth (Beth) Trott (Phillips) (Myrtle Beach, SC)

January 7, 2008
Godspeed George! And, thank you.

Allison Cochran (Houston, AL)

January 7, 2008

I am very saddened to hear of Dr. Folkerts' passing.

Thank you Dr. Folkerts for your extensive efforts in regards to the natural resources of Alabama.

To the Folkerts family, My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Fred Leslie (Montgomery, AL)

January 5, 2008

The name George Folkerts is synonymous with Conservation Biology and Natural History at Auburn University. His influence was incredibly far-reaching both nationally and internationally. Nearly every biologist we meet, upon learning of our background and former affiliation with Auburn, asks about George. He was one of the most prominent conservation biologists of his generation and his legacy will remain an inspiration to those whose lives and careers he touched. George was an incredible source of information about the natural world and the keeper of many important questions in biology. More than that, he was a good friend and a great soul. When George passed away, Earth became a less interesting and intelligent place to live. We will truly miss him and hope that his love for the natural world will live on in all who love George.

With much love and our deepest sympathies to Debbie, Molly, and the rest of the Folkerts clan,

Mike Gangloff and Lynn Siefferman (Boone, NC)

Michael Gangloff (Boone, NC)

January 4, 2008

In my mind, George will always be Alabama's number one naturalist. He will missed by all. However, his legacy will live through all he touched with his vast knowledge of the natural world.

Ken Marion (Birmingham, AL)

January 2, 2008

Ingrid Kircher called me and told me the terrible news about George's passing. I can only say that besides being VERY sad, I was tranformed immediately back to pitcher plant bogs and carefree days in Auburn. George has stamped indelibly a love for nature, conservation and all things beautiful in the minds of many. The best thing of all is that he made learning about it so much fun.

I hope to reach out to you personally in the days to come.

Please know that we share your sadness but celebrate the life of one terrific individual.

With love

Audrey Goins (Brichi)

Audrey Brichi (Oakland, CA)

January 2, 2008

I will miss you, Dr. Folkerts. Thanks for the life lessons, and instilling in me a love and respect for nature and the outdoors. Above all, thanks for teaching me how to balance a spoon on my nose. :-) Please say hello to my Dad for me. Wishing you much love and light.

Marisa Lee-Sasser (Lowndesboro, AL)

January 1, 2008

A couple of months after coming to work for the Department of Biological Sciences in May, 2007, I stopped by George’s office to say hello. He asked me how I liked my new job and I told him I loved it except I had no convenient way to make coffee. He said, “I have a coffee maker I’ll give you. I’ve gotten to where I only drink instant coffee. I don’t drink coffee for the taste, I just drink it for the caffeine.”
He had a way of touching some of his words with a tone of laughter, and the target of that laughter was often himself. Somehow he had suggested that I might have had more class than he did because I appreciated the taste of coffee. If you knew George, you can hear him; casually and cheerfully declaring that he had a way to help you in that gentle voice that was so deep you could almost hear each vibration. A voice anyone would like to have heard in their own father.
I told him thanks for the coffee maker and walked away thinking how great it was that I would spend the next several years working in the same building as George Folkerts.

I used to bring him leaves, seeds, parts of bugs. Once or twice he didn’t know what they were, and he freely admitted so and referred me to someone else. In the 20 years I’ve known him, he’s never given me any evidence that he knew how smart he was. He’s never given me any evidence that he knew how smart I wasn’t.
I used to put pictures of strange things in my wallet so I would be prepared for the next time I saw him, and the next time was often when my daughter and I were in Funchess Hall on a weekend. I remember her as a little girl looking down the third floor of Funchess and saying, “I want to see George!” And I remember how delighted he was to see her.

At the young age of 69 George had already accomplished enough professionally and personally that he could declare himself victorious in the game of life. There are very few other people I can say that about of any age. He left a precious family feeling anything but victorious, but Debbie, Molly, and the rest of his family have a blessing and an advantage in life’s journey. They lived with George Folkerts.
George knew the majesty of nature, the power of the human mind, the blessings of humility, and the truth of being an individual. He was burdened less than most of us by society’s obtrusions and dictations.
I am a better person because of my visits with George. It was a privilege to know him, but I believe he would have given time to any sincere person who walked into his office. In that, he had his limits. The George I knew didn’t have time for the disingenuous.

When I was a graduate student, I remember George telling me that he had flunked a genetics exam (or perhaps it was the whole class) because he was in the woods when he should have been studying. I was obsessed with obtaining the highest grades possible, so George’s statement was amazing and profound.
If George had had a chance to give one last lecture, I believe he would have told us to go into the field and don’t come up with any excuses about some report you have to write or some test you have to study for. Get out there! And take someone with you so you can share the experience, and if that someone is a child, all the better.
I write this for Debbie and Molly, whom I know, but I also write this for everyone who knew George. Think of George and abandon what you’re doing and go out to the woods. Count the birds you see, smell the leaves, listen to the wind, feel the sun, and know that you are in the presence of the spirit of George Folkerts, and, in nature, you are in the presence of the teacher of one of the greatest teachers any of us has ever know.

Shawn Jacobsen (Auburn, AL)

December 29, 2007

George will be missed by all of us who knew him. I was lucky enough to take George's Evolution and Systematics course my first quarter at Auburn and it was one of the best classes I took during my entire time there, and it definitely got me excited about my future as a scientist. I remember participating in one of his "Natural History Quizzes" and how much fun he seemed to be having. My sympathies to Debbie and all his family- Margaret

Margaret Gunzburger (Bruce, FL)

December 29, 2007

The roar of another lion of conservation has been silenced. In his book entitled "An American Crusade for Wildlife" James Trefethen spoke eloquently of the "giants among the pygmies" in the field of conservation. George was truly one of those "giants." All things and places that are wild and free have lost a great crusader on their behalf. George was unsurpassed as a teacher, field biologist, naturalist, and purveyor of general knowledge. I also have lost a friend and mentor. I had planned and looked forward to spending even more time in the field with George after my retirement. Selfishly, I must admit to regretting I'll not now have that opportunity. George often kidded me that he would attend my retirement party long before I would attend his, even though I was 12 years his junior. Ironically, a number of us were celebrating my last day at work in Buffalo's on Magnolia, one of George's favorite "non-field" haunts, that Friday evening. A number of us had wondered aloud where George was, and then we received the news. What a shock! But that was George....just when you thought you knew everything about him, he would surprise you in some other way. Whether in the class room, the field, or just talking over a beer, his presence was a joy and he will be sorely missed.

My heartfelt sympathies to Debbie, Molly, and the rest of George's family.

Ralph Mirarchi (Opelika, AL)

December 27, 2007

George Folkerts was a legacy at Auburn. I was fortunate enough to have him for two classes in my time at Auburn. He was hilarious and knowledgeable and taught us how to think not just the content of the class. Legacy's never die he will live forever in the hearts and minds of the students he taught.

Whitney Spalding (Kingsland, GA)

Since George's passing I have searched for words to express what George has meant to me. The feelings are there but the right words are not forthcoming. I never sat in one of George's famous classes, and I never was in the field with George - both my great losses. Most of my conversations with George over 31 years were spontaneous - in the hall, in the mailroom or at Kroger. I never left from a conversation with George without feeling in some way inspired, encouraged, uplifed and personally appreciated. He had a special talent for making whoever he was with feel special and valued. Hearing George's seminars on endangered wetlands and their flora and witnessing the success of his passionate campaign to save the Arboretum have had lasting, even formative, effects on my professional and personal life. Witnessing George clearly articulate his principles and then forge ahead tirelessly, relentlessly, and with such great intelligence into actions based on those principles has profoundly and positively affected my view of life and how one ought to live it. This in no way adequately expresses the hows and whys of the great esteem with which I have held George as a collegue or the fondness I have felt for him as a friend, but at least it's a start...
Jim Bradley (Auburn, AL)

December 27, 2007

I cannot approach the eloquence of those that have already signed. I can only say that I am better, as a biologist and as a person, for having known George. I am poorer for his leaving, and for that I grieve.

Carlos Camp (Demorest, GA)

December 26, 2007

My deepest sympathies to Debbie and the family. I hadn’t seen George since I left Auburn but I often thought of him during my wanderings, especially whenever I came across something like a new spider or plant. Thanks George for sharing your wit and wisdom with us. You gave freely of your time and advice, and you inspired us to be better students and professionals. I am forever grateful to have spent some time with you.

Mark Kiser (Tallahassee, FL)

December 26, 2007

Dear Debbie,

You are in our thoughts and prayers- know that we are sharing your tears of loss. I see George, above, smiling down on us, from the most perfect and rare ecosystem of heaven- waiting to share it with us all! We are all blessed to have been touched by George’s knowledge, intellectual challenges, friendship and laughter. He changed us all- for the better..

Barbara Sheffer and "JT" John Thompson (Ashburn, VA)

December 26, 2007

George Folkerts served ably on the board of The Nature Conservancy for several years when I was Executive Director. I knew him before then too as one of the most eloquent voices for environmental protection I had ever known. He had a passionate manner of speaking his heart and soul related to the natural world that touched me and others deeply and compelled us to action. A true giant has left the world. I draw comfort from the fact that he developed many, many environmentalists who will pick up where he has left off. He's left a tremendous legacy of which I know his family is proud.

Kathy Stiles Freeland (Birmingham, AL)

December 26, 2007

George was a true naturalist in all ways. One could not help but learn from him in the field and in the class room. From George I learned the value of night walks in the forest. I'll always remember the great weekly lunches with George, Debbie and Gary. Wow, what a legacy this great man has left!

Ronald D. Cave (Port St Lucie, FL)

December 26, 2007

Charlie Johnson and John Dismukes were beside themselves with the prospect of having just found a new species of parasite in the gut of an opossum, when George walked by the lab. Looking down the microscope at their find, George simply uttered one of those sagely "Hummmmmms." He left and few minutes later came back with a reference - "puff ball spores" he announced, much to the chagrin of John and Charlie. That incident, and all the other times - singing "shanana" during libations at Alabama Academy meetings, or simply having a chat over coffee - he and Bob were two people who most shaped my future - both so wonderful as examples of "knowing your organism." He was always a friend - as he was to everyone of us - even when I hadn't contacted him in years. His letters played a role in my appointment to several jobs leading to several different careers, and his advice was a powerful influence on my decisions. In life and now in death, George will always be a hero to me. Debbie and Molly - I only took things - George's wisdom and knowledge, his humor and his passion for life - but you gave him joy and happiness, which he shared with all of us - thank you.

Terry Schwaner (Findlay, OH)

December 25, 2007

Thanks for the good times and the willing ear, George. I didn't take any classes with you, but that doesn't mean I didn't learn a thing or two.

(Steven) Jerome Schultz (Yongin, South Korea)

December 24, 2007

Rest in Peace, George. We'll miss you.

Andrew Stoehr (New Haven, CT)

December 24, 2007

Dear Debbie,

Last Friday week I found myself among scores facing the sudden, sad news that we’d lost a dear friend -- one whom we’d each selfishly like to say was our very best. It is no small consolation that we can all claim him as our very best teacher. In that capacity, with an authoritative, unassuming manner, George extracted the very best from us -- graciously sharing his view of the natural world so that we might better formulate our own.

Thirty years ago, on the ’77 Summer Field Course, I returned to Pina Blanca campsite in the Pajaritos Mts. with vine snake in hand, much to George’s delight. Through coincidence and circumstance, I walked by the same locale on a Mearns quail hunt just as the memorial service was underway. And in that bittersweet moment, I bid him goodbye. In remembrance of “G.” and with an aching heart, I offer my sympathy and condolences.

Trip Lamb (Greenville, NC)

December 24, 2007

George was an exceptional colleague: skilled, compassionate and a tireless and courageous leader in environmental causes. George set a superb example for students and faculty alike.
Our hearts go out to Molly and Debbie in this difficult time.
Ann, Tony and Grace Moss

Anthony Moss (Auburn)

December 23, 2007

I was deeply saddened to hear about George. His Evolution and Systematics course was the most enjoyable and educational class that I ever took at any level, and his methods as teacher and natural historian were influential in my own endeavors, as was the friendship bestowed upon me by the two of you when at Auburn. I am fortunate that my life's journey crossed paths with such a brilliant individual. Please accept my condolences.

Harlan Hendricks (Columbus, GA)

December 23, 2007

As an entomologist I read some of Dr Folkerts work in the past, he was a great man/ scientist.
Ahmad Mahdavi,

Ahmad Mahdavi (Guelph, ON)

December 21, 2007

I was one of his students for Evolution and Systematics in Spring of 06. He was a wonderful and funny teacher. I will never forget how he told the story of the rabbit wars in Australia. He will be sorely missed.

Helen Jowers (Auburn, AL)

December 20, 2007

Debbie and Family,

Please accept our deepest condolences. George was so special in so many ways. Anne Marie and I were reminiscing about taking Plant Ecology from George around 1986 or so. We agreed that it stands out by far as the best college course we ever had - and only George could have made it that way. He was a wonderful man, a gifted teacher, and a briliant naturalist. He leaves behind a wonderful legacy in all the students that he touched and influenced so positively over the years. Debbie, you and your family remain in our thoughts and prayers.

Tom and Anne Marie Moorman (Madison, MS)

December 20, 2007

As we all move through Christmas and the New Year, we all think of our many blessings. One of mine, of course, is George Folkerts. He has touched so many students,and we owe him much. His passing leaves us sad and pained, but grateful to have walked in his shadow. What a cool place to be. Think of the memories and good times though. We all must have our favorite George Folkerts anecdotes. The time we all awakened to clanking dozers at the edge of a Gainesville sanitary landfill we thought a pasture. Those "rocks" under my sleeping bag were protruding bottles and cans in the light of day. The zagnut bar purchased from a very rural Arkansas general store with very dated stock. I never will forget the adult moths that flew out as George unwrapped his prize.

You that were fortunate to know this wonderful man and scientist, hopefully, are smiling as you recall your favorite memory.

To Debbie and kids. You are in our thoughts and prayers. Thanks for sharing him with us!

Ron Caldwell, Auburn 1977 thanks to George.

Ron Caldwell (Harrogate, TN)

December 20, 2007

Auburn University has lost one of the greatest professors they ever hope to hire. George was indeed a brilliant man and such a gifted teacher and researcher. He greatly influenced my years at Auburn and my degree in zoology in 1970. I came in to see him when my younger daughter was in high school and as I walked down the hall in Funchess to his office, he intercepted us and called me by my name after so many years!! He made class so much fun and so interesting that you couldn't help but enjoy it. My daughter later met him several times at trivia sessions and he remembered her,too. My other daughter knew him also and had planned to take a class under him while she is in Auburn (she is teaching at the vet school now)just because I had raved about his classes and wanted her to be able to have him as a teacher, too. I will miss him as so many others will, but Debbie and family, please know that he was GREAT and that we send our heartfelt prayers to all of you. Anna Marie Kennamer Rush 1970

Anna Marie Rush (Lineville, AL)

December 20, 2007

Debbie and Family:

My heart really goes out to you. George was such a wonderful person; he had the rare skill of just being able to make people happy regardless of their circumstances. He was the most gifted teacher I have ever known. His knowledge of natural history was just amazing but his ability to generate excitement in learning and passion for conservation are unsurpassed. He had a tremendous influence on my career as well as the careers of countless others. I will miss him.

Sammy King (Baton Rouge, LA)

December 20, 2007

George meant more to me than I ever told him. He inspired me to try and make a career out of chasing plants and animals around the woods, and for that I am forever grateful. He was a mentor in the true sense of the word. And, he could balance a pool cue on his foot like no other. He will be dearly missed, and I count myself lucky for having met him. We've lost a good one...

Wes Cochran (Lafayette, LA)

December 20, 2007

We have lost something very great with George. He was a rare person whom I will always feel honored to have known. He was a father-like figure in my life as well as an inspiring teacher and a good friend. He and Debbie are both why I'm where I am today. He will live forever in our thoughts and memories and in the many lives he touched while he walked this earth as only he could have. He will be missed.

Rebecca Cook (Auburn, AL)

December 20, 2007

Debbie and Family,
I am deeply saddened by the loss of Dr. Folkerts. He is the reason I am who I am today. His love of nature and conservation inspired me to become a teacher in hope that I can share some of the message that he was so passionate about. He was a father figure to me... he gave me advice not only about school but about all aspects of life.
I have so many wonderful memories because of him, the class trips that we took, and the lectures that he gave us about the "real world." He will be greatly missed, but his work and his words will stay with me forever.

Meredith McCool Latimer (Birmingham, AL)

December 20, 2007

We are so saddened by the news. You are in our thoughts and prayers as you go such a difficult time. We hope to see you next time we are in Auburn.

Julee and Ames Herbert (Franklin, VA)

December 19, 2007

Dr. Folkerts was an inspiration to all. He inspired me to want to know more and to commit my life to conservation. Thank you Dr. Folkerts. I will always remember wanting to be on his trivia team at Buffalo's-Aloha.

Leayne Patch-Highfill (Volcano, HI)

December 19, 2007

I am still getting over the shock of losing such an important person in my life as George Folkerts. First I want to extend my sincere condolences to Debbie, Molly, Merrill, Evan and the rest of the Folkerts family. Thank you for sharing George with us all. There can be no doubt how important he was in the lives of so many of us that attended Auburn. It was amazing to witness the diversity of people who came to pay him their respects: all ages, nationalities, and walks of life. Furthermore the proof of his influence is in these posts from across the country.
I know I risk re-hashing what so many others have so eloquently said about George, but it bears repeating. He was a bastion of knowledge and sensibility and cared deeply about everything he was involved in. His love for the natural world was as far reaching as it was contagious. Anyone who took one of his classes knows this. He was generous with his knowledge and always had time to sit down and identify the latest cave scud or larval salamander or lend advice to anyone who happened by. I had the privilege of knowing him in the classroom, in the field, and at the bar. Like all of us I feel cheated that I did not get more time with him in all these activities. Trying to stump George was about as futile as trying to beat him at broomstick balancing. He cared about and studied parts of the southeast neglected by others, and was not afraid to speak for them when threatened. The same went for students. He cared deeply about his teaching and the state of higher education. His classes were life changing for many and really made you examine your knowledge and beliefs. I feel sorry for any student that graduated from Auburn without taking one of his field classes or his Iconoclastic Biology course if they had the chance. He had humor and poetry in his soul. He was kind and humble and would probably be embarrassed to have all these things said about him. He was a true philosopher in all senses of the word and was not afraid to expose students to ethical controversies, the questions of life, or the meaning of happiness. More importantly he was not afraid nor too arrogant to admit that he did not have all the answers either. So now that George is off answering those final questions we are all left here to help carry on his legacy. I hope each of us can find one of those special places near us that George would have appreciated; a bog, a sandbar, a floodplain forest, a rock outcrop, it does not matter. Study it solely for the joy of learning its ecology, not because a publication or career depends on it. Love it, protect it, and share it with others. Pass this joy on to your students and children just as he did with us. I will miss George.

Roger Birkhead (Notasulga, AL)

December 19, 2007

Mt deepest sympathies go out to all that loved George. He was an amazing human being. I'll never understand how he could always remember everyon's name that he ever taught. Just another example of his brilliance, I guess. I'm sorry for the future students of Auburn that will never get to learn from him.

Charity Garrett (Minneola, FL)

December 19, 2007

Dr. Folkerts and Molly, I am very sorry for your loss, even though I never had the pleasure to know him personally I read many of his manuscripts. I had the chance to attend his talk about pitcher plants and I now regret terribly I could not take his wetland biology class. I really liked his talk and for that moment I saw his wonderful personality and I loved his jokes during the talk.

Glenda Gil Kline (Eufaula, AL)

December 19, 2007

Dear Debbie and Family,
I was terribly saddened to hear of Dr. Folkert's death. I am so glad I was able to speak to him not long ago after so many years. He was a natural treasure himself and will be greatly missed. I feel honored to have known him.

Jeff Scott (Attalla, AL)

December 19, 2007

While I was at Auburn I looked up to George as a role model for what I would aspire to be. I’m sure I’m not the only person with similar feelings toward him. I am very sad to find this news. George was such a fantastic person on every level. No matter where you were from, he had a story about something he did sometime in your little home town. He was also the best teacher I’ve ever had. I really enjoyed interacting with him. One day I went in to ask him about brown-hooded cockroaches and he told me to meet him at the loading dock the next morning at 4:00 am. We drove around Alabama collecting cockroaches that day. I really wanted to see him again to tell him how much he has influenced my life. My condolences go out to Debbie and the rest of his family.

Andy Boring (Lexington, KY)

December 19, 2007

George Folkerts is the reason I am in science. I'll never forget him sitting in front of an old growth tulip tree in Joyce Kilmer National Forest and telling our class, "don't ever let anyone tell you to get into the "real world". Academics is the pursuit of knowledge and is more real than anything you'll ever find in the "real world"."

I respected George more than anyone else I ever met in academia. His loss is massive and I am so priviledged to say I knew him.

Andrew Rypel (Birmingham, AL)

December 19, 2007

Dear Debbie & family -

I was so sorry to learn of George’s passing. The other night Melissa and I spent much of dinnertime reminiscing about all of those wonderful memories of George and our time at Auburn. Please know that he touched our lives in such a great way and we are honored to say that we knew George Folkerts. We keep you all in our thoughts and prayers.

Gary Miller (Laurel, MD)

December 19, 2007

I am saddened to hear of the passing of Dr. Folkerts and my deepest sympathy to his family. I will continue to treasure my memories of time spent with him both in the classroom and in the field. My most often recounted "Folkerts story" is from the last day of his symtematics and evolution class. He set the class off on a spirted discussion between those who held to the belief in devine creation and those who held to the theory of evolution. While students argued their points Folkerts sat back with his feet up and a sly smile on his face. As the class period drew to a close, he leans forward, the classroom falls quiet and he says, "If God is truely omnipotent and all powerful, why couldn't he have done it both ways". Dr. Folkerts will be profoundly missed.

Ross Self (Columbia, SC)

December 19, 2007

Dear Debbie and family,

It is with great sadness I write this. Thanks to George, I have so many wonderful memories of my Auburn days. Not only was he a favorite teacher, but he was a life-long inspiration and friend. He taught us to stand up for what is right for the environment, ie to Stop Stream Channelization and protect the green pitcher plants and other endangered species, to go out on a limb (literally and/or figuratively) if necessary, and to have fun while doing it. I've always said he was the smartest man I know. I just hope I was able to pass along a little of his enthusiam for all living things to my students. He is greatly missed, but I hope heaven is now hearing a few rounds of "Alley Oop".

My sincerest condolences,
Carol Cranford

Carol Cranford (Albertville, AL)

December 18, 2007

When I heard the news about George, I checked my e-mail several times over the night because I was sure someone had made a mistake. When I was an undergrad, grad school wasn't even a thought until my former professor handed me a stack of papers written by George and Debbie Folkerts. My professor knew both George and Debbie, and told me they were both kind, genuine and amazing people. I e-mailed George about Auburn, Graduate school and his work. Auburn was the only place I applied, and the only place I was going to attend. George Folkerts and his advise is the reason I am a graduate student. Everything I will come to accomplish from my graduate education is with great thanks to George Folkerts. George will be greatly missed, but his influence, time, ideals, and humor will be remembered by everyone. He will be thought of often, and remembered always.

Rena Miller (Auburn, AL)

December 18, 2007

My heartfelt condolences to Debbie and her family. Debbie, I had you for invertebrate zoology in 1990 or thereabouts I think you were subbing for George. That was probably my favorite class. I remember once going to some "quaint" joint up around Dadeville for a get-together and biology quiz with George. I am so sorry. But just think of all he left to the people who knew him. He has left a legacy to so many people. What more could one ask? Please know there are people out here thinking of you that you don't even remember but whose lives you and George touched.

Anita Ridlehoover (Pocatello, ID)

December 18, 2007

So sorry to hear of your loss. George was a friend and always an enthusiastic sounding board for fascinating scientific conversations. Your family is in my thoughts.

Jeff Jolley (Brookings, SD)

December 18, 2007

George was an incredible teacher and had a rare ability to transmit his passion and interest to students, making friends the whole time. I loved every class I took from George and feel lucky to have worked with him, but taking his Field Biology of the Southern Appalachians class was one of the best learning experiences of my life. I’ll always remember his excitement while showing us cataract bogs, pitcher plants, cove forests, hellbenders, and the correct way to hold a snake. Auburn and all of its students have lost an incredible teacher and mentor, we’ve lost a friend, and endangered habitats have lost a warrior. A sad, sad day for us all, but aren’t we lucky to have known and learned from George Folkerts. I know I am.

Elizabeth Smith (Anchorage, AK)

December 18, 2007

You inspired many, and will continue to inspire others through us.

Casey Knight (Auburn, AL)

December 18, 2007

Dear Debbie, Molly and family, I am sorry to hear of the news of your loss. I will miss George's wonderful curious smile and inviting personality. He encouraged me to explore and learn about creatures most people ignored, were scared of, were disgusted by or never even saw unless they looked. He loved a good story but could usually one-up your's with a wild fascinating tale. He had a talent of spinning a tale in lecture so well I felt I'd visited those places with him. I'll always remember George's wetland biology class and going in the field where he caught a cottonmouth so we could study it and made us hang in trees looking for FL panthers. He always took time if you dropped by to chat. He is already missed but will live on through all our memories!

Wendi Winter Hartup (Winston Salem, NC)

December 18, 2007

Dear Debbie and Molly,
I am so terribly sorry for your great loss. George was such a special person and touched so many lives with his intelligence and wisdom about all things. He will be sorely missed. Thinking of you,

Suzanne Oberholster (Hoover, AL)

December 18, 2007

From the first day of class that I had with George, he has always been an inspiration to me and one of the most amazing people I have ever had the fortune of meeting. He was always an enigma to me.His sense of humor, passion for his work and love for the natural world have served as an inspiration to me and many others and set a kind of standard by which I tried to measure myself.

I'll never forget, and always value the extremely positive and meaningful influence George had on my life.

I deeply grieve his passing and pass along my deepest heartfelt condolences to Debbie, Molly and family.

There will never be another like him.

Harold Mitchell (Panama City, FL)

December 18, 2007

My deepest sympathy goes out to the Folkerts family and the Auburn community. George's legacy will live on the lives of all of us whom he touched with his guidance and kindness. Whether we spent hours in the swamp and boat or hours in the car on a collecting trip, we always learned so much from this wonderful man. He challenged you but was fun to be around. To combat the sadness I feel, I am imagining the rejoicing in heaven right now as I envision him there sitting down and talking with those early environmentalists that he admired. The family will be in my thoughts and prayers.
Grace and peace,

Nalria Wisdom Gaddy (Evans, GA)

December 18, 2007

George was an inspiration to so many of his students. I am honored to say that he was one of my professors. We all mourn the loss of a wonderful man.

Jackie Word (Pensacola, FL)

December 18, 2007

Auburn is poorer; the world poorer. George taught my Vertebrate Zoology I in spring 1968; I am a better biologist for that experience, even though my area of expertise is very different from Vert Zoo.
When I met and married my husband in the 1980s, he (an entomologist) knew George (and George knew him) from mutual work with water beetles. No man will ever know as much field biology as George.
Margaret Till

Margaret Till (Bloomsburg, PA)

December 18, 2007

18 Dec. 2007

Debbie & Family,

Yesterday, sadly, I learned about George's unexpected death from a recent graduate of my Dept. who had just completed his evolution course last week. I'm proud to be able to include myself among the long list of George's friends & colleagues. I only spent a short time with him in the field during a meeting in southern AL in June 1988, but I'll always cherish this memory. My one regret is that George and I never had a chance to collaborate on a research project. Those of us that are lucky enough to have known him as a friend & colleague feel a great, deep loss.

With sympathy,
Bill Grogan

William Grogan (Salisbury, MD)

December 18, 2007

I majored in Wildlife at Auburn. After graduating I went back to Auburn for a visit and ran into George. I was hesitant to tell him that I wasn't going to continue to be a field biologist that I was going on to become a teacher. When I told him this news I thought he would be disappointed. That is when he began to remind me that he was a teacher too and that I was not selling myself short. George’s passion for nature and teaching influenced me to follow in his footsteps. I now teach hundreds of school children a year about nature in Alabama. George touched so many. Thank you for all you have done. You will be missed!

Jessica Boudreaux (Flomaton, AL)

December 18, 2007

Jason and I both had George for Evolution & Systematics, but we had the pleasure of enjoying his company through the years during our time at the University. He was such a wonderful and caring person, always smiling and willing to talk. I saw him on November 11 at Kroger and I am glad I had one last opportunity to see him and speak with him. I will cherish that moment and all others. He will be missed, but his legacy will endure. We will keep you and Molly in our thoughts and prayers.

Ashley Belcher (Yeaman) (Auburn, AL)

December 18, 2007

I only met him once, but knew of him long before we met, having read many of his writings, he was visiting our Herbarium at UL (Lafayette, LA) and honestly what a thrill it was to sit and visit with a legend, I have always treasured that afternoon, I have friends who were among his students, and had heard many stories of this great man. He will be missed by so many who's lived he touched and eyes he opened. He opened my eyes and made me want more and I only met him once!

Garrie Landry (Lafayette, LA)

December 18, 2007

Debbie, Mollie,

Please accept my heartfelt condolences. Your family will be in our prayers. Bless you, Ed Jhee

Edward Jhee (Arlington, VA)

December 18, 2007

I am so sorry for your loss. George was an amazing man who touched the lives of everyone he met.

We are all better for having known him and will miss him terribly.

Angela Schroer (Kenosha, WI)

December 18, 2007

A vast and rare knowledge has gone with the passing of George Folkerts. We are left with the memories of field trips, lectures, and party games. And what memories they are. Take care, Debbie and Molly. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Melissa Miller (Laurel, MD)

December 17, 2007

Debbie and family,
You are in my thoughts and prayers. Knowing George made me a better steward of nature and when I introduce “naturalist” to my students, I tell them about him. Looking back on those field trips and informal discussions with George, I can see that he somehow managed to make us graduate students feel like we were his equals. His gift of mentoring will live on.

Steve Murphree (Murfreesboro, TN)

December 17, 2007

Debbie, This is Britt Marett. I had you for invert and George this semester for evolution. I feel like I am part of the Folkerts legacy that George has left on Auburn. I am terribly sorry for your loss.

Britt Marett (Hoover, AL)

December 17, 2007

My husband and I extend our deepest sympathies to George Folkerts' family, friends, and fellow students. We are truly saddened by his passing and cannot imagine a world without his presence. His class and his exceptional nature renewed our once-dwindling faith in our decision to return to school. He was a phenomenal person, and we are proud to have known him.

Sandi & Carey Gibbs (Auburn, AL)

December 17, 2007

Debbie and Molly,
I just want you to know that I'm thinking of you and you're both in my prayers. I'm so sorry for your loss. George touched so many lives and inpired so many. I'm glad to get to say I am one of them.

Barry Cochran (Birmingham, AL)

December 17, 2007

I was very sad to have learned about George's passing. He truly had a smile on his face for everyone. I will miss him. Trivia at Buffalos American Grille will not be same without him.

Dave Shabo (Auburn, AL)

December 17, 2007

When I entered Auburn, I was a wide eyed country boy who dreamed of becoming a Physician. My first biology class was with George. You see he was one of the only professiors at Auburn who knew me by name. He gave me the confidence to go on and become a Physician. After graduating from the U of Alabama School of Medicine, I kept in contact with George and even visited his office at Funches Hall on one occasion. He may be replaced but never forgotten or equaled.

Cecil Bullard (Fresno, CA)

December 17, 2007

I was shocked and saddened to hear of George's passing. We have lost a wonderful naturalist, teacher and friend. I consider George one of my mentors and heroes, and I'll always remember the wonder he inspired in me for natural environments, and particularly for fire ecology. Debbie, you have my deepest condolences. Take care.

Mary Carrington (Crete, IL)

December 17, 2007

Ave atque vale ... he was among the best of teachers. May perpetual light shine upon him. May his memory be eternal.

Larry Hribar (Marathon, FL)

December 17, 2007

Debbie - so sorry for your loss.

Marty McGinty (Hermitage, TN)

December 17, 2007

I had Dr. Folkerts this past semester. He taught me more than any teacher ever had, and was filled with joy in every moment.He truly changed my life. He will always be remembered in my thoughts and prayers.

Nicole Siegal (Birmingham, AL)

December 17, 2007

Dear Debbie and Molly,
My thoughts are with you and your family at this time. George was such a wonderful lover of natural history and great friend and mentor. I owe my career to him. Though I didn't get to see him very often, I am so grateful that I was able to spend a day with all of you just recently. He will be missed.

Michael Carpenter (Springfield, VA)

December 17, 2007

Dear Debbie and Molly:

Please accept my sincere condolences. George was my mentor, my friend and my role model. My thoughts are with you.


Demian Kondo (Davis, CA)

December 17, 2007

I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to the Folkert's family. The world has lost a truly wonderful person. He was able to convey his passion for nature to so many others (how many times I went through his class and had forgotten to take notes due to his mesmerizing lectures)! He will truly be missed.

Stacy Mote (Columbus, GA)

December 17, 2007

I wish to send my condolences to Debbie, Molly and the rest of the Folkerts clan. The Folkerts have and always will be very special people. George has had such a positive influence on so many lives; he will always be loved, sadly missed, and never forgotten. The Southeast has lost one of its greatest biologists and advocates of conservation. It pains me to say, "farewell", to one of the finest people I ever had the opportunity to meet and get to know.

William (Bill) Reynolds (Raleigh, NC)

December 17, 2007

Dear Debbie and family:
I was so very sorry to hear the terrible news that has befallen my good friend George Folkerts. George was a very special person and there are very few like him and I am so sad.

Gary Sampson (Auburn, AL)

December 17, 2007

George taught me, and countless others, to think outside the box and view the world in a different way. He will always be in our hearts as a friend and a true mentor. My deepest condolences to Debbie and his children.

Mary Lou Ewald (Auburn, AL)

December 17, 2007

George was one of those characters that make a lasting impression on you from the moment you meet.

We'll all miss him, but none of us who knew him will ever forget him.

Rick Pavek (Auburn, AL)

December 17, 2007

I would like to extend my sincerest condolences to Debbie and the rest of the Folkerts family, the Auburn community, and the broader community of biologists and ecologists--all of whom have suffered a sudden and irreplaceable loss. It was a privelege to know George during my time at AU, and I know he will be deeply missed by many.

JT Vogt (Leland, MS)

December 17, 2007

I will always remember George as a positive role model and outstanding ecologist. He rekindled my interest in turtles and I remember our 1960's field trips collecting Graptemys.

Harold Wally Wahlquist (Lilburn, GA)

December 17, 2007

I am deeply saddened to hear of George's passing. My sincerest condolences to the family and to those deeply affected by this tragedy. It's impossible to step into a pitcher plant bog and not think of George. Peace...

Randy Swilling (Aiken, SC)

December 17, 2007

Dear Debbie,
Just to reiterate what Mom & Dad said, we send you prayers and love.
Jenny & Gene Nealon (aka Jenny Smith-Brian's sister.)

Jenny Nealon (London)

December 17, 2007

Dear Debbie,
We are thinking of you, wish we could be with you.
A donation is being made in George's name to the Ocean Conservancy, from the Smith Family.
Love Pat & Tom Smith

Pat & Tom Smith (Rehoboth Beach, DE)

December 17, 2007

When our first attempt to get a famous and wonderful keynote speaker for a large conference failed, I immediately entered the discussion with "let's ask George Folkerts--he would do a fantastic job". He did. What a wonderful naturalist and one of my favorite people. Dave Etnier, Univ. of Tenn., Knoxville

David Etnier (Knoxville, TN)

December 17, 2007

The world was a better place because of this gentle man. His presence was an inspiration to all who knew him. My deepest sympathy to his family and the Auburn Community which he so eloquently served.

Bill Blackburn (Lexington, KY)

December 17, 2007

I will always be thankful that George taught me that it is OK to step outside of the science sometimes and just appreciate the nature around you. He was the most influential teacher I have ever had and I, like the rest of us in this field, will miss him. My deepest condolences go out to his family. You're in our thoughts.

Carrie Lona (Louisville, KY)

December 17, 2007

I would like to express my deepest sympathy for the Folkerts family. I believe anyone who took George's classes were deeply touched by his caring and commitment for the wonders of the nature. Auburn, the State of Alabama, and the southeast has lost a great leader.


Bill Lynn (Youngstown, FL)

December 17, 2007

I was filled with saddness upon hearing the news about George. He was one of my greatest mentors at Auburn. He inspired me to be the best that I could be. He took the time to interact with his students in a personal way, often sharing his home and family with us all. His knowledge of the natural world was unmatched, yet I even more admired his willingness to spend time with and inspire his students. My regrets to Debbie and the rest of the family.

Hill Henry (Knoxville, TN)

December 17, 2007

The field of conservation biology has lost one of its most outstanding professionals. George was both a friend, and a mentor, to many of us who have labored in this profession. He will be missed. To Debbie and the family, we share in your grief.

Ralph Jordan, Jr. (Norris, TN)

December 17, 2007

George was a true friend and an irreplaceable asset to humanity. The world will not be the same without him.

Ellen Murray (Auburn, AL)

December 16, 2007

Our deepest condolences to Debbie and Molly and George and Debbie's families. We will miss George dearly and will always remember his enthusiasm for both teaching and all in the natural world. It was infectious! His wetland biology course and going in the field with George was one of our fondest Auburn memories. He will never be forgotten!

Catherine and Bryan Phillips (San Marcos, TX)

December 16, 2007

I woud like to say that my deepest sympathy goes out to Evan and Angela Folkerts and the rest of the family. May god bless you in the things to come.

Shannon Huggins (Opelika, AL)

December 16, 2007

The world has lost a wonderful naturalist and teacher. George enthusiastically shared his passion for the natural world and for that I will always remember him. He was one of my favorite and most inspirational teachers both in school and out in the field. My thoughts and prayers are with George's family and I know that his memory will live on in everyone that had the pleasure of knowing him.

Michelle Moreno (Durflinger) (Oceanside, CA)

December 16, 2007

Jan and I were completly shocked at the news of George's passing and express our deepest sympathy. Although we didn't get to see him too much in recent years, I will always remember the times spent with him in our youth. He accomplished remarkable things.

Bill and Jan Firth
Springfield, IL

Bill Firth (Springfield, IL)

December 16, 2007

Dr. George Folkerts will be greatly missed throughout the Auburn/Opelika community! He was such a gentle and caring giant with a wonderful sense of compassion and understanding. Auburn University has lost one of it's greatest professors and colleagues. He will be sorely missed by all!

Jenny Smith (Opelika, AL)

December 16, 2007

My deepest condolences. Dr. Folkerts was a wonderful person. He will be missed by those that knew him and Auburn University who has lost a wonderful professor.
Gwen Kirk

Gwen Kirk (Tuskegee, AL)

December 16, 2007

What a shock to lose someone who was so alive at every moment. Debbie and Molly, and George and Debbie's families have to deal with a great personal loss. But all in the Auburn extended family, including many students current and former, and George's colleagues and friends will miss him terribly. And the natural environments of the southeastern region have lost a friend who really cared about them. This is a sad event for so many lives.

Steve Dobson (Auburn, AL)

December 16, 2007

From Texas we send our love and deepest sympathy.
Wanda and Jim Dobie

Wanda & Jim Dobie (Kerrville, TX)