Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Eulogy for John Rold

Eulogy for John Rold
Rarely has so honest and forthright a man had such a positive influence on so many.

Born a rancher’s son in the depths of the Great Depression, John grew up surrounded by wildlife amidst rural ambience and heavy work near Salida, Colorado. Losing his father at an early age, John shouldered the responsibilities of being the man around the house.

He worked temporarily for the Forest Service and gained admission to the University of Colorado and its World War II V-12 program, destined to become a naval officer.  When that program terminated at the end of  the war, he continued his education.  Also a varsity football player, he accidentally took a course in geology and enjoyed it, eventually earning a master’s degree. As a lifelong outdoorsman, he succumbed to the lure of a profession that seemed to offer challenging work in the wilds of the Earth. Of course, we now know that petroleum geology is largely an office occupation.

After a successful career with Chevron, John was appointed the State Geologist of Colorado in 1969, rebuilding a geological survey after a thirty-year hiatus. I first met him shortly thereafter on a Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists field trip in Phantom Canyon. We argued geology. Strenuously. At great length. In excruciating detail.

John Rold thrived on professional details. His standards for his survey were high, and he insisted that those who opposed his conclusions be equally detailed, or they lost. When he concluded that a proposed development did not meet land stability standards, no one ever successfully argued against his conclusion.  The politics of development contrasted to the requirement that developments meet land stability standards caused much legislative trouble for the Colorado Geological Survey, but lives and property were spared inevitable landslide disaster. His honesty did not necessarily win friends, but it did earn him the respect of all.

After retirement from the CGS, John blossomed as a consultant on land movements, becoming internationally known for his landslide analyses. Recognition by his peers with the highest award of the American Institute of Professional Geologists (of which he had been president), the Ben Parker Medal, was a fitting climax to a career of public service both in government and in private practice, a triumph for honesty, competence and high ethics. [Photo 2009, courtesy of Tom Berg]

There was another John Rold that I knew and loved, the original cowboy from Salida.  This John Rold hunted, fished, communed with nature, and initiated all who would listen into the breadth of the outdoor world. I never had the chance to hunt with John, but I sure had some great fishing trips with him. I will always picture him with Stetson, jeans, boots, and his light gray jacket set off with brightly colored patches signifying his membership in outdoor organizations. This John Rold was a member of the board of the Colorado Wildlife Federation, leader in the International Order of Rocky Mountain Goats and a Colorado Master Angler. 

When he cast a fly, his line danced out over impossible distances, landing lightly on the water. He usually had a fish on before anyone else. Unlike others, he would share what fly he was using, and where he thought the fish might lie.  He would compliment his fellow anglers, even if they were stumbling around a bit with wind knots and tangled leaders. I was one.

Optimist, honest, forthright, kind, polite, a gentleman. I miss him greatly.

Lee Gerhard
Fellow geologist and friend

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