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Richard (Dick) Pharis 1937-2018

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Poplar scientists in Canada and around the world were saddened to learn of the recent death in a Calgary hospital of Dr. Richard (Dick) P. Pharis.  Dick's long career of research and teaching in plant physiology, particularly with plant growth hormones (gibberellins), brought him international recognition.  He conducted his research with a number of different plant species, including poplars, cottonwoods and aspens, collaborating with and having a positive influence on many Canadian poplar and willow scientists.  This is evidenced in a presentation he gave at the 2011 Edmonton conference on 'Poplars and Willows on the Prairies': Richard P. Pharis, Raju Y. Soolanayakanahally, Chang-Yi Xie, Leonid V. Kurepin, Ruichan Zhang, Loeke Janzen, Robert D. Guy, Shawn D. Mansfield, Virginie Pointeau, Faride Unda, Barb R. Thomas and Salim N Silim, 2011. Plant hormone markers for inherently rapid stem diameter & height growth in balsam poplar and hybrid poplar genotypes growing in Canada's Prairie Provinces (available on this website).

The following obituary of Dick Pharis appeared on the website of McInnis and Holloway Funeral Homes, Calgary:

'Following nearly a month in the Foothills Medical Centre, Richard (Dick) Pharis passed away on Tuesday, July 3, 2018 at the age of 81 years.

'Dick was born in Indianapolis, Indiana and because of his father's army career, lived in many US states.  His teenage years were spent in the Seattle area where his love of fishing, the mountains and forests developed.  There as a boy scout he earned his Eagle Scout status and forever after lived by the motto "be prepared".

'Graduating in Forestry from the University of Washington in 1958, Dick went on to Duke University in North Carolina to gain a Masters and PhD degress in plant physiology.  After a two-year post-doctoral fellowship at California Institute of Technology, he began a research and teaching career in 1964 as a Professor of Botany at the University of Calgary.  His tenure-ship there persisted for 53 years, as did his love for Alberta's prairies and Eastern Slopes.

'Research in forestry, horticulture and agronomy took him and his wife Vivian to many parts of the world, but especially to Australia and New Zealand.  Dick become globally recognized for his research in plant hormones, especially gibberellins.  His Calgary lab hosted students and scientists from around the world.

'Dick was a major force in Alberta's land conservation movement and in the 1960's helped found the Alberta Wilderness Association.  The Pharis's travelled extensively in wild places by foot and horse and even camel in Australia.  They lived on an acreage on the escarpment of Big Hill Springs north of Cochrane for nearly 50 years, where they kept pack and saddle horses, chickens and a menagerie of pets.  They were also residents of New Zealand and for the past 25 years operated a vineyard just north of Christchurch that grew grapes for their winery, Torlesse.

'Dick is survived by his wife Vivian, sister Lynne of Bellingham, WA, six brothers-in-law, seven sisters-in-law and eleven nieces and nephews.'

Dick Pharis in greenhouse at Indian Head collecting leaf samples for GA analysis.
Dick Pharis (2nd from R) with poster at Edmonton conference 2011