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Douglas H. Strong

A Life Well Lived

October 7, 1935 - December 23, 2015

Douglas Hillman Strong, a native Californian born in 1935, grew up in Berkeley and later attended the University there. He married early and had three children, Peder, Beret, and Kare, before earning a doctoral degree from Syracuse University.

His interest in the American wilderness led to pioneering studies in the field of environmental history. He is the author of several books, including

Dreamers and Defenders: American Conservationists,

Tahoe: An Environmental History, and

Letters to John. After 26 years as a professor at San Diego State University, he retired to combat cancer, a fight he eventually won. His students appreciated his discussion-based teaching and his colleagues wanted him to be Chair of the department because of his steady leadership and ability to get along with others.

The tumultuous sixties and early seventies helped catalyze the breakdown of his marriage and broadened his understanding of human relationships. His second marriage, to Karlan Styler, revealed to him what a deep and truly loving relationship can be. He gained three lovely children, Rick, Robert, and Kendra. Through his marriage to Karlan, their blended, enlarged family was a source of great stimulation and pleasure. His and Karlan’s family includes their children’s spouses and their grandchildren Kelby, Matthew, Paige, Sydney, and Marcus.

After his retirement, Doug began to write poems and personal essays, and learned to paint beautiful watercolor landscapes. His artistic work was kindled and nurtured by his love for Karlan, and influenced by the peace he experienced in the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada, Colorado Rocky Mountains, and the wilds of New Zealand.

When he developed Parkinson’s disease, he adjusted with the grace he brought to all of life’s challenges. When his painting hand could no longer create mountains and cloudscapes, he grew into a painter of abstracts. When the radiation therapy he received for his initial cancer of decades earlier caused new and incurable forms of cancer, he told Karlan and his children that he had had a wonderful life, was a lucky man, and had accepted that his journey was coming to an end.

Doug believed with deep passion that all people are interdependent and mutually responsible for the earth’s well-being, including its natural resources, and all living creatures. He is remembered for his integrity; his belief in being a steward of the earth; and his loyal, generous, and loving devotion to family and friends.

Doug wanted no gathering or ceremony at his passage but rather a quiet moment of reflection by those so inclined, to appreciate the beauty of the earth and the blessings of life. The greatest honor we can give to his life is to fully live ours.