Wesley C. Wehr
|Wesley Conrad Wehr|
|Born||April 17, 1929
|Died||April 12, 2004
|Fields||Paleobotany, The Northwest School|
|Known for||Fossil leaf analysis, painting|
Wesley Conrad Wehr (1929–2004) was an American paleontologist and artist best known for his studies of Tertiary fossil floras in western North America, the Stonerose Interpretive Center, and as a part of the Northwest School of art.
Wesley Conrad Wehr was born as the only child of Conrad J. Wehr and Ingeborg (Hall) Wehr, in Everett, Washington on April 17, 1929. As a child he displayed an aptitude for music which was encouraged with private lessons. In his senior year of high school, two of his compositions Pastoral Sketches for Violin and Piano and Spanish Dance came to the attention of George F. McKay, then and instructor at the University of Washington. McKay invited Wehr for private study with him, and in 1947 Wehr entered the University. He was a recipient of the Lorraine Decker Campbell Award for original composition and graduated in 1952 with a Bachelors of Arts then with his Masters in Arts in 1954. Wehr first began painting in 1960.
Wehr was a student of the noted poet Elizabeth Bishop and in 1967 she wrote a gallery note for a showing of Wehr's paintings. In the gallery note she commented on the small size of his works and compared them to short works of music. In a similar reflection, Bishop commented on Wehr transporting new works in an old briefcase and showing them at a local coffee house, and the effect the painting had on those viewing them. Bishop notes that Wehr was a collector of natural objects such as agates, amber, and fossils. She noted that Wehrs works possessed a "chilling sensation of time and space".
Wehr met the future chief curator of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Kirk Johnson, when Johnson was in his early teens. As Wehr had never learned to drive, when Johnson got his drivers license, Wehr and Johnson took a week long trip through Eastern Washington. It was on this trip that Wehr and Johnson first visited Republic, Washington to find fossils.
In the 1970s he started to focus on paleobotany, guided by his correspondence with noted paleobotanists Charles Miller and Chester Arnold. He continued his love of petrified wood through correspondence with George Beck of Central Washington University. The 1977 visit to Republic lead to the realization of the richness of the Flora. Until his work in the 1970s the fossils of Republic were regarded as a more than a minor flora. In the early 1980s working with Republic councilman Bet Chadwick, Wehr helped with the initial setup and organization of the Stonerose Interpretive Center.
In 1976 Wehr was appointed as an affiliate curator of paleobotany at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture. Wehr maintained this position for the rest of his life. Through his contacts and work both in Republic and that the Burk Museum he authored a series and papers on the fossils found at Republic. A group of ten papers published in the now defunct publication Washington Geology were aimed at a general audience. Wehr was recognized for his work with fossils in 2003 when he was awarded the Paleontological Society' s Harrell L. Strimple Award, awarded each year to an amateur who has contributed paleontology. The reception hosted by Wehr at the Burke Museum afterwards was attended by 200 of his friends and acquaintances. A number of extinct plants and insects were named in honor of Wehr including Osmunda wehrii, Wessiea yakimaensis, Pseudolarix wehrii, and Cretomerobius wehri. The fossil flower, Wehrwolfea striata was named for Wehr and paleobotanist Jack Wolfe. While traveling with Kirk Johnson in 1992, Wehr visited the Black Hills Institute and saw the skeleton of the Tyrannosaurus rex Sue five days before its was seized by the FBI.
Five days before his 75th birthday Wehr suffered a series of heart attacks and died on April 12, 2004. The planned birthday party was changed into a memorial service, attended by more than 200 people.
- Archibald, S. B.; et al (2005). "Wes Wehr dedication". Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 42: 115–117. doi:10.1139/E05-013.
- Rosenbaum, Susan B. (2007). Professing sincerity: modern lyric poetry, commercial culture, and the crisis in reading. University of Virginia Press. pp. 188–190. ISBN 978-0-8139-2610-0.
- Johnson, Kirk; Ray Troll (2007). Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway: An Epoch Tale of a Scientist and an Artist on the Ultimate 5000-Mile Paleo Road Trip. Golden, Colorado: Fulcrum Publishing. pp. 3, 66. ISBN 978-1-55591-451-6.
- Burke Museum press release accessed 11 August 2011