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John Tomer, 1917-2007
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Tulsa World Obituary                Eulogy by Janice Booth, John's Daughter                    John Tomer Papers at TU

John 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 at Amoco, 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 1970's.

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 http://www.lib.utulsa.edu/speccoll/collections/tomerjohn/index.htm. 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 Audubon page www.tulsaaudubon.org/john-tomer.htm

Services will be 11:00 a.m. on Friday, June 1 at John Knox Presbyterian Church, 2929 E 31st St., Tulsa.

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: www.legacy.com/tulsaworld


The University of Tulsa
McFarlin Library, Special Collections Department

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 projects.

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 this collection.

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 period 1953‑82.

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 Ornithology.

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  1849‑50
  • D.H. Tolbot  1882‑89
  • James H. Gaut  1904‑05
  • Albert J.B. Kirn  1910‑17
  • Leonard B. and Margaret M. Nice  1919‑27
  • John R. Pemberton  1921‑22
  • William H. Koons  1923‑33
  • George W. Morse  1923‑29
  • Edith Force Kassing  1924‑61
  • Hugh S. Davis  1930‑50
  • Orrin W. and Ethel S. Letson  1934‑58
  • 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, 1917-2007

"We 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 father:

“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 paint.”

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 were.”

And, today, I believe my father would remind us of Thoreau’s words about death:

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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