Gary's Story

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COOPERSTOWN — On Aug. 16, 2015, Dr. Gary Seamans Dunbar, Professor Emeritus of the University of California at Los Angeles, died peacefully at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown at the age of 84. At the time of his death, Dr. Dunbar had been a resident of Cooperstown for 27 years, moving here after retirement from the Department of Geography at UCLA. His first introduction to Cooperstown had been in 1952 when, as a graduate student at the University of Virginia, he came to the area to research the cultivation of hops for his Master’s thesis and was captivated by the village, Otsego Lake and the surrounding countryside.
Gary Dunbar was born June 8, 1931, in Clifton Springs, the son of Alvin Robert and Esther (Seamans) Dunbar. After graduating from Avon Central High School in Avon in 1948, Gary attended the University of Virginia where he earned a Bachelor of Arts with Distinction in 1952 and a Master of Arts in 1953. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa (1952), Phi Eta Sigma (1949) and Phi Kappa Phi (1956) honor societies. On April 4, 1953, he married Elizabeth Tighe in Rochester. In 1956, at the age of 24, he earned his Doctor of Philosophy from Louisiana State University and embarked on a career of teaching and scholarship in the field of Geography.
After a year teaching at Longwood College in Farmville, Va., (1956 to 1957), Dr. Dunbar accepted a teaching position at his alma mater, the University of Virginia, where he taught from 1957 to 1967, rising to the rank of Associate Professor and serving as Chairman of the Department from 1963 to 1967. While associated with the University of Virginia, he spent a year at the University of Dacca, East Pakistan (now Dhaka, Bangladesh) as a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar. He also taught for two years at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria (1965 to 1967).
Returning to the States in 1967, he accepted a position as a Visiting Associate Professor of Geography at UCLA and continued to work there until his retirement in 1988, earning the rank of Full Professor in 1970. Gary wrote nine books during the course of his life and published about 160 articles, notes and reviews, continuing to publish after his retirement.
Endowed with an insatiable curiosity and desire to explore, Dr. Dunbar traveled widely throughout North and South America, the West Indies, Europe, Asia and Africa. He almost always included his wife, Elizabeth and their three children in his adventures. When the children were grown, he and Elizabeth continued to travel together.
While living in Cooperstown, Dr. Dunbar served on the Editorial Board of the New York State Historical Association from 1997 to 2005, as President of Friends of the Library and enjoyed 25 seasons of the Glimmerglass Opera. He was a long time member of First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown.
His family and many friends will remember his integrity, generosity, intelligence, thoughtfulness, dry wit and quick sense of humor, amazing memory, deep and resonant speaking voice and his courtesy. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 62 years, Elizabeth (Tighe) Dunbar; his three children, Emily Dunbar-Smith and her husband, Frederick Harold Smith, of Jackson, Miss., Elihu Sidman Dunbar and his wife, Maria de la Luz Joachin Palafox Dunbar, of Santa Fe, N.M., and Esther Dunbar-Cullum and her husband, Peter James Cullum, of Sonoma, Calif.; and four grandchildren, Tighe Elijah Dunbar, Katherine Elizabeth Dunbar-Smith and her fiancé, William Walsh George, Jesse Peter Dunbar Cullum and Esme Olivia Dunbar Cullum. He is also survived by his brother, Alvin Webb (Pete) Dunbar and sister-in-law, Waynne Boyden Dunbar; his sister, Sara Dunbar Widlund; his sister-in-law, Jean Daniels Dunbar; and five nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his parents Alvin Robert and Esther (Seamans) Dunbar and by his brother, Bruce Rex Dunbar.
The family is planning a memorial service for the spring of 2016.
Memorials may be made at this time, if you wish, to the New York State Historical Association, The Farmers’ Museum, the First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown or to the charity of your choice. Mailing addresses for the three organizations listed are as follows: New York State Historical Association, P.O. Box 800, Cooperstown, NY 13326; The Farmer’s Museum, P.O. Box 30, Cooperstown, NY 13326; the First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown, 25 Church Street, Cooperstown, NY 13326.
Arrangements are under the care and guidance of the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home in Cooperstown.
Published on  September 17, 2015
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