The end of a year is always bittersweet, inviting us to reflect on the past as we simultaneously look toward the future. The taxidermy community suffered many losses of friends and family in 2012, some leaving this world peacefully after a full and complete life, and some whose lives were cut tragically short by accident or disease. The amazing level of talent lost in 2012 will be felt for years to come, but their work, their art, their relationships, and their memories will live on within those of us whom were touched by their presence in our little corner of the world. Here are some of the friends, family, and colleagues that we lost this past year.
Richard C. “Rich” Caswell
Richard C. “Rich” Caswell, 67, died on March 14. Rich was born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey and resided in Somerville for the past 30 years. He was employed as a maintenance worker for Middlesex Board of Education for over 25 years. He was a member of the National Taxidermists Association and the Garden State Taxidermy Association, as well as the U.S.S. Intrepid Association. Richard enjoyed boating, fishing, hunting and taxidermy.
Henry Wichers Inchumuk
Henry Wichers Inchumuk of Hot Springs, South Dakota left this world on June 16, 2012, 6 days before his 91st birthday. While undergoing cancer treatment, Henry suffered a massive stroke on June 8 and never regained consciousness. Henry’s passing marked the end of an era, as he was the last of the great 20th century museum taxidermists, working for 33 years at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. His many accomplishments were far-reaching and legendary within the taxidermy community. Henry placed his desire to accurately recreate the natural world above money, success or fame. He continued to produce outstanding work well into his nineties.
Glen Conley of Connersville, Indiana, passed away on August 28 after a long illness. Glen broke his neck in a fall when he slipped on ice back in February of 2009 and during his long recovery, his doctors discovered cancer. In addition to raising and showing “curly” horses, Glen was a talented taxidermy sculptor, inventor, and our most popular and entertaining Forum contributor. Among his many accomplishments, he developed the product “Stop Rot” which is almost magical in its properties.
Billy Ray Hall
Long time Texas taxidermist Billy Ray Hall died September 27 of pancreatic cancer in Bowie, Texas. Billy was a past board member of the Texas Taxidermist Association and an well-known taxidermist around the Austin area. Billy Ray Hall was a proud Marine, and as a Vietnam veteran he earned a Purple Heart.
Taxidermist Charlie Brown of Argenta, Illinois died October 7 at age 84. He was one of the two Illinois Taxidermist Association members who started the first youth seminars at a state convention in the country. He kept attending and competing in ITA conventions right up to the end. Many anglers in Central Illinois took pride in having their trophies mounted by Charlie Brown Fish Art.
Bill Coates of Hog Heaven Wholesale Boar Taxidermy in Carthage, New York died on October 26 at age 66. Known on the Forums as [email protected], his boar mounts set the standard for high-end wholesale work. Bill worked as a sales tax auditor for New York State for several years before operating his own accounting and tax preparation business at his residence. In 1996 he opened his taxidermy business and was joined by his son Robbie who maintains the business today.
Taxidermy great Richard Jeppson of Pocatello, Idaho lost his battle with cancer on November 14. He was an active board member of the National Taxidermists Association from 1992 to 1995, as well as a charter member of the United Taxidermist Association. As a science teacher for three decades at Highland High School, Richard passed on his life-long love of nature and the outdoors to thousands of students. In June of 2012, Richard and Karen Jeppson’s home was destroyed during a thousand-acre brush fire.
Ron Pittard of Seaside, Oregon, passed away on November 21, 2012 at the age of 78. A gifted fish artist, Ron was well known for both his flat art prints as well as incredibly realistic fish replicas which he perfected many decades before anyone else. Known as the “father of scale tipping” within the fish taxidermy world, Ron hand-painted every scale on every fish multiple times to achieve his incredible results. As an inspiration to today’s top artists, Ron never entered a competition, and lived without a phone to keep his whereabouts a secret, as there was too much demand from the public for his original fish art.
David J. Schwendeman
David J. Schwendeman of Milltown, New Jersey, the last chief taxidermist ever employed by the American Museum of Natural History, passed away on November 26 at the age of 88. He was a staff taxidermist at the AMNH for twenty-eight years before retiring in 1987. He provided taxidermy for the renovation of the Hall of North American Birds. He was trained by his father Arthur, who opened a taxidermy shop in 1921. The family business is now run by David’s son, D. Bruce Schwendeman, a third-generation taxidermist, who continues to do work for the AMNH. Melissa Milgrom, the author of the 2010 book, “Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy” was so impressed with Dave that she made him the subject of the first and last chapters of her book.
Taxidermist Nelson Garner of Cumming, Georgia, was killed while working in his Deer Processing Business located in Sparta, Hancock County, Georgia on December 2. This shocking crime is still under investigation.
A great Arizona bird taxidermist and apiary inspector passed on December 11, 2012. Robert Wayne “Bob” Hancock, a 78 year old resident of Congress, Arizona was born in Nampa, Idaho. He married his sweetheart, June Mayes in 1960. They made their home in Arizona, where Bob explored his skills at taxidermy and worked for the State of Arizona as bee inspector. The Hancock’s worked endlessly at the family business of taxidermy. He always said “There’s nothing easy about taxidermy. It’s not a glamorous job. It’s dirty. It’s messy. It’s not a fun thing, but it’s a means to an end when you have to make a living.”
Brian Harness of Ozark Woods in Harrison, Arkansas, died in a tragic accident while cutting trees on December 19. A talented artist, sculptor, innovator, and World Champion taxidermist, Brian had a huge influence in the taxidermy industry. As a multiple cover artist for Breakthrough Magazine, his artistry was evident in everything he did. A gallery of some of his taxidermy work can be found here.
Taxidermist Joe Voges of Nebraska City, Nebraska died on Christmas Eve at the age of 99. He began Naturecraft Taxidermy Studios in the early 1930’s, eventually acquiring a large collection of mounted wildlife. In 1975, Nebraska City provided space to establish the Voges collection as the River Country Nature Center. In his later years, Joe spent much of his time at the museum visiting with guests and sharing stories.
Pauline Kulis of Bedford, Ohio, passed away on December 26 at the age of 98. Ms. Pauline was Joe Kulis’ mom, and his best employee at Kulis Freeze-Dry Taxidermy. She hand-sewed every bear rug that Kulis produced, which was hundreds over the years, and continued to work productive seven-hour days well into her mid-nineties.
Previous Year’s In Memoriam
In Memoriam 2011: http://www.taxidermy.net/threads/290121/
In Memoriam 2010: https://www.taxidermy.net/threads/245312/