was a pioneer of Oklahoma ornithology. He was a founding member of the
Tulsa Audubon Society in 1935, and remained a leader in Tulsa Audubon
and the OOS his entire life. In addition to a career in data processing
he was a research associate at Stovall Museum. He began working closely
with Gorge M. Sutton beginning in 1954, and was a major contributor to
Sutton's book Oklahoma Birds. He had a life long interest in the
1849-50 work of naturalist S.W. Woodhouse while traveling in Indian
Territory, and edited the book A Naturalist in Indian Territory: The
Journals of S.W. Woodhouse, 1849-50, published in 1996.
John served on the Board of the Friends of
Oxley Nature Center for many years and was among the early supporters of
the Nature Center when it was in the earliest stages of trying to get
the City to proceed with the plans for a Center back in the early
John was instructed in the importance of
record keeping as a student of Edith R. Force, Science Teacher at
Woodrow Wilson Junior High School, and later, as high school students,
Wallace O. Hughes and him worked with her on a bird study project that
resulted in a publication in the 1935 PROCEEDINGS OF THE OKLAHOMA
ACADEMY OF SCIENCE. Since then he actively accumulated information
pertaining to the avifauna of Oklahoma, particularly the Tulsa area.
In 1954 he became associated with George
M. Sutton, Professor of Ornithology, and Curator of birds at the Stovall
Museum at the University of Oklahoma. He contributed much information to
him from the Tulsa area for his book Oklahoma Birds , published in 1967.
He made a Research Associate at the Stovall Museum in 1970 and worked
with Sutton and the Museum staff from then to the present.
In 1985 John donated his extensive papers
and records to the University of Tulsa library. You can read a short
description of these, written by John himself, at
An edited version of this is included below. It presents an enlightening
look at John's life.
John himself was a mentor as well as
friend to many of us interested in birds and natural history in
Oklahoma, and he will be greatly missed.
For more on John's life, see the Tulsa
Services will be 11:00
a.m. on Friday, June 1 at John Knox Presbyterian Church, 2929 E 31st
by John Kennington
Tulsa World Obituary
TOMER - John Shaffer, 89, retired from BP Amoco, passed away
Saturday, May 26, 2007. John was born June 10, 1917, in Kiefer, OK, to
Charles F. and Carrie Shaffer Tomer. He was a graduate of Tulsa Central
High School and the University of Tulsa, with a Bachelor of Science
degree. He married Patricia Busby on April 16, 1943. John was a past
board member of the Tulsa Historical Society, Oxley Nature Center,
George M. Sutton Avian Research Center and Enardo Manufacturing Company.
He also was a member of the Tulsa Audubon Society, Oklahoma
Ornithological Society, and the Oklahoma Historical Society. Mr. Tomer
is survived by: his wife, Pat of the home; daughter and son-in-law,
Janice Tomer and Jeffrey J. Booth, Portola Valley, CA; son and
daughter-in-law, Mark Tomer and Gloria, Tulsa; grandchildren, Ashley
Booth, Matthew Booth and Evan Tomer. Also surviving is 1 sister,
Elizabeth Johnston of Claremore. Mr. Tomer was preceded in death by: his
parents; and 3 brothers, Robert, Thomas and Frederick; 2 sisters,
Virginia and Alice Male Tomer. In lieu of flowers donations can be made
to the Oxley Nature Center, George M. Sutton Avian Research Center, or
the Tulsa Historical Society. Service will be 11 a.m., Friday, June 1,
2007, John Knox Presbyterian Church, 2929 E. 31st St., Tulsa. Visitation
will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Thursday, May 31, at Moore's Southlawn
Chapel, 9350 E. 51st St. Share a memory of John with his family by
signing our online guest book at
www.moorefuneral.com and clicking on the Ultimate Tribute icon,
663-2233. John Shaffer Tomer VIEW AND SIGN THE ONLINE GUEST BOOK:
The University of Tulsa
McFarlin Library, Special Collections
JOHN S. TOMER PAPERS
This collection is an
accumulation of more than fifty years of data gathered as a
result of my interest in the subject of bird study in Oklahoma.
I was instructed in the importance of record keeping as a
student of Edith R. Force, Science Teacher at Woodrow Wilson
Junior High School, and later, as high school students, Wallace
O. Hughes and I worked with her on a bird study project that
resulted in a publication in the 1935 PROCEEDINGS OF THE
OKLAHOMA ACADEMY OF SCIENCE. Since then I have actively
accumulated information pertaining to the avifauna of Oklahoma,
particularly the Tulsa area.
Edith R. Force (later Mrs.
David O. Kassing) was the most active early ornithologist in
northeastern Oklahoma. She did much research on the birds and
reptiles of northeastern Oklahoma from 1924 to 1966 and
published several good summaries of her work (see my manuscript,
"Edith Rhoda Kassing nee Force (1890‑1966), Biography and
Bibliography"). Hugh S. Davis, who was Assistant Director and
Director of Tulsa's Mohawk Park Zoo during the period 1930 to
1965, photographed birds, banded ducks at Mohawk Park and was
active in leading two significant Oklahoma bird conservation
Both Edith Force Kassing and
Hugh Davis, knowing of my interest in preserving this historical
information, have contributed records, correspondence and
photographs to this collection.
The first file contains the
papers, photographs and research data of Edith Force Kassing.
Her papers in this file were acquired from two sources: 1) Her
ornithology papers, manuscripts and bird records (Box 3), were
given to me when she moved from Tulsa to Edmond, Oklahoma in
1961, and 2) The material in boxes 1‑2 and 4‑9, contributed by
Dr. Harold E. Laughlin except as noted, which includes her
herpetological papers and some personal memorabilia. They were
given to Laughlin in 1967 by David O. Kassing after Edith died.
Laughlin turned this material over to me in 1983 to include in
The second file, Box 10,
contains correspondence and data accumulated by Hugh S. Davis
while he was active in bird projects in the Tulsa area during
the 1930's and 40's. It contains data on the extensive duck
banding program at Mohawk Park. Many of his photographs of
birds and correspondence about his two bird conservation
projects, one to have hawks protected in Oklahoma and another to
save the Cypress swamps in McCurtain County, Oklahoma, a nesting
place for herons and anhingas, are included in this file.
The third file, currently
represented only by the materials in Box 11, includes
correspondence, research notes, records and photographs
accumulated from my first bird project in 1934 to my recent
studies in the history of Oklahoma Ornithology. It contains my
field notes of my work in the Tulsa area during 1934‑35 and the
My notes on the history of the
Tulsa Audubon Society and my active participation as
Vice‑President in 1956‑57 and as President in 1958 are in the
file. It also has information on my work as leader of the
Christmas bird counts and as the Rare Bird Chairman. It
contains an almost complete run of the "Tulsa Scissortail"
newsletter of the TAS from 1949‑1985.
In 1954 I became associated
with George M. Sutton, Professor of Ornithology, and Curator of
birds at the Stovall Museum at the University of Oklahoma. I
contributed much information to him from the Tulsa area for his
book Oklahoma Birds , published in 1967. I was made a Research
Associate at the Stovall Museum in 1970 and worked with Sutton
and the Museum staff from then to the present.
The file contains all of my
extensive correspondence with George M. Sutton from 1954 until
he died in 1982. It also contains my correspondence about my
work with the Stovall Museum as Research Associate in
In 1967 I became interested in
the work of a pioneer ornithologist, S.W. Woodhouse who worked
in Indian Territory in 1849‑50. My research was published in
the BULLETIN OF THE OKLAHOMA ORNITHOLOGICAL SOCIETY in 1974. I
am presently working with Professor Michael J. Brodhead,
Historian at the University of Nevada Reno, editing the
Woodhouse Indian Territory journals for publication as a book.
My research about the 1849‑50
work of S.W. Woodhouse in Indian Territory resulted in an
accumulation of much data, which is part of this file. It also
contains copies of two of his handwritten 1849‑50 Indian
Territory diaries from the Academy of Natural Sciences of
Philadelphia and one from the Historical Society of
Pennsylvania. I have also collected copies of all of his
natural history publications of the period. My extensive
research notes on Woodhouse's explorations and specimen
collections in Oklahoma, photographs and manuscripts, are part
of this section.
From 1955 to the present I have
written thirteen other notes on the distribution of birds in
Oklahoma that have been published in THE AUK, THE WILSON
BULLETIN, THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE OKLAHOMA ACADEMY OF SCIENCE,
and THE BULLETIN OF THE OKLAHOMA ORNITHOMOGICAL SOCIETY.
Research data pertaining to this work is contained in the file.
The last section of this file
contains notes on the biographies of scientists and serious
amateurs who have contributed significant information to the
subject of Oklahoma ornithology. At this time it contains
research notes on the following workers:
- Thomas Nuttall 1819
- Thomas Say 1821
- Samuel W. Woodhouse
- D.H. Tolbot 1882‑89
- James H. Gaut 1904‑05
- Albert J.B. Kirn 1910‑17
- Leonard B. and Margaret M.
- John R. Pemberton 1921‑22
- William H. Koons 1923‑33
- George W. Morse 1923‑29
- Edith Force Kassing
- Hugh S. Davis 1930‑50
- Orrin W. and Ethel S.
- Anna L. Reynolds 1948‑78
- George M. Sutton 1951‑82
Since my retirement in 1979 I
have actively pursued my interest in the history of Oklahoma
bird study. I have made a special effort to research and gather
biographical data about the ornithologists, both amateur and
professional, who have made significant contributions to the
study of Oklahoma avifauna. These will hopefully someday be used
in a publication on the history of Oklahoma ornithology from
Nuttall to the present.
John S. Tomer
25 July 1985
Eulogy by John's
Daughter Janice Booth
John Shaffer Tomer,
celebrate this day the uncommon life of a common man. John Tomer lived
unto his ninethieth year – a man of common sense, common courage, and
uncommon perseverance. Every day, he simply put one foot in front of the
other on a path that describes a slow, simple arc upward.” Those words
came from Catharine Mackinnon, on her father Judge George Mackinnon, and
remind me of my father.
My father accomplished so much throughout his life – he was a
mathematician, computer pioneer, nature lover, Oklahoma historian,
author, and devoted lover of my mother and family.
Anna Quindlen, editorial columnist at the NY Times, said “ The living
are defined by whom they have lost.” Those words are certainly true for
those of us here today. Every day I see and feel my father, as I always
have since I left home and was not with him day to day. He lives in
his grandchildren, in Ashley, Matt and Evan’s artistic abilities, in
Ashley’s abiding love of nature, in that certain slope of Matt’s
shoulders, in Evan’s attention to details. I feel him in my mother’s
love, in Mark’s confident competence born from my father’s belief in
him, and in my father’s encouragement of a young girl’s love of numbers
and mathematics. He was a great humanist. He and my mother brought up
their children to believe in the dignity of every human being and to
respect others. I think of him every day.
My father was also a lover of literature and philosophy. One of Dad’s
favorite authors was the naturalist, Henry David Thoreau. When Thoreau
died, Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke these words, which remind me of my
“He loved nature so well, was so happy in her solitude, that he became
very jealous of cities, and the sad work which their refinements and
artifices made with man and his dwelling. The axe was always destroying
his forest—Thank God,” he said, they cannot cut down the clouds. All
kinds of figures are drawn on the blue ground, with this fibrous white
David Cook said, “The perfect mother and the perfect father do not exist
in this life, and I am glad for that. No child could stand them or get
free from them. But the father of whom you can say he loved you
unconditionally, he gave you a sense of purpose in life, and he showed
you what it means to live faithfully, to age courageously, and to die at
peace with himself – that is all the father any child could hope for.
That is the father we had. Thank you Father for being just who you
And, today, I believe my father would remind us of Thoreau’s words about
“Death is beautiful when seen to be a law, and not an accident. It
is as common as life. Every blade in the field – every leaf in the
forest – lays down its life in its season as beautifully as it was taken
up. It is the pastime of a full quarter of the year. Dead trees – sere
leaves – dried grass and herbs – are not these a good part of our life?
When we look over the fields, we are not saddened because these
particular flowers or grasses will wither — for the law of their death
is the law of new life. The herbage cheerfully consents to bloom, and
wither, and give place to a new. So it is with the human plant.
The wiser soul will snuff a fragrance in the gales of autumn, and
congratulate Nature upon her health.”
My father was a lifelong naturalist and an avid birdwatcher – may his
spirit soar with the birds.