FWD: OBOL: Craig Roberts: A Summary of his life
- Dear All,
This morning I have taken a little time to reflect on Craig Roberts' life
as one of his friends and as a fellow birder and have written the following
summary about him. I have incorporated what I know about him and have tried
to weave into this account various comments that others have posted on OBOL
about him in the past day. This is simply a rough draft, but perhaps a more
polished version of this summary could be published in Oregon Birds at some
point. I will probably need to verify some of these details with his wife
at some point, but I believe that this summary is for the most part accurate
based on what I know at this time. I would be interested in hearing from
anyone who can offer suggestions to help improve this summary in any way.
Craig Roberts, a longstanding member of the Oregon birding community, died
December 27, 2003 shortly after a tragic automobile accident on Highway 6 in
eastern Tillamook County. Craig and his family were returning to Tillamook
after his son had been in a Portland Youth Philharmonic concert when their
minivan was struck head on by a pickup. Craig was only 4 days short of his
47th birthday at the time of his death.
Craig grew up in Central Point, Oregon where his father was a family
practice doctor. Craig showed an interest in birds at an early age and by
the time he was 12 he was a serious local birder. Dave Irons, a Eugene
birder, recalls that Craig was co-leading Rogue Valley birding trips for the
Portland Audubon Society with Otis Swisher as early 1971. After graduating
from high school Craig went to George Fox College (now George Fox
University) in Newberg where he graduated with a biology degree in 1979. In
true fashion for a birder, Craig proposed to his future wife Chris by
showing her a rare "bird" in the spotting scope at one of their favorite
birding locations that was in actually a sign on a distant hillside that
read: "Will you marry me?"
Following his graduation from George Fox College Craig went to George
Washington School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri where he received his
medical degree in 1983. He then went to Spokane, Washington were he
completed a three-year residency in family practice medicine in 1986. Craig
then joined a family practice group in Prosser, Washington where he
practiced until 1991 when he moved to Tillamook, Oregon to work as an
emergency room physician for the Tillamook, Hospital.
I first met Craig in 1979 at George Fox College when I was a freshman
and we have birded together in Arizona and here in Oregon over the years.
When I was in the planning stages of a birding trip to California in 1984
Craig sent me a detailed 6-page letter outlining locations where I could go
to see the specialty birds I was hoping to see there. This was typical of
Craig, who always seemed to be willing to go above and beyond the call of
duty to help other birders no matter what their level of expertise was.
While Craig did do quite a bit of birding in Oregon over the years, he
never pursued bird listing in Oregon and was instead much more focused on
developing his ABA list. He has been birding all over North America. At
the time of his death he had a North American ABA area list of over 800.
Even though Craig had an extensive life list he never seemed to be
egotistical about this. He always seemed more interested in helping other
birders develop their skills and in making sure that they got to see the
birds that they wanted to see than he was interested in pursuing his own
Craig’s knowledge of North American birds was encyclopedic. He was
especially well informed about the status of rare ABA area bird records.
Craig loved to teach others about bird identification and led field trips
for Tillamook Community College. Tillamook area birders affectionately
named their birding club after him as the Tillamook "CRABS" (the Craig
Roberts Area Birding Society). He also helped lead bird trips to Attu for
Attours and went to Attu about 6 times. In addition, Craig was a member of
the birding team that set the Oregon Big Day record of 216 species in 2002.
As a member of the Oregon Bird Records Committee since 1993 Craig brought
an ABA area perspective to the committee that was very helpful. He took his
work on the committee very seriously and wanted to make sure that a high
standard was met before he voted to accept a record. As fellow committee
member Jeff Gilligan has said: "Craig was detailed, knowledgeable, and
brought an honest element of skepticism to the committee. He was about the
hardest person on the committee to convince regarding the acceptability of a
record, but his views were always rational. He never was mean spirited. He
was consistently polite and considerate of others." Another committee
member Gerard Lillie mentioned the following: "I always looked forward to
hearing and reading Craig’s opinions on records in circulation. His
comments on records that circulated through the committee were always well
researched and informed." David Bailey provided these additional insights:
"Craig provided a perspective that will be very hard to duplicate. He was
supportive, encouraging, knowledgeable, and kind." Tom Crabtree had this to
say about Craig: "Craig Roberts was an exceptional birder and an even
better human being. He was passionate about birds and life in general. He
got us to look at things in a different way many times over the years. His
comments were incisive and always offered in a manner that insured no one
would be offended. He always made the rest of us work harder to be able to
justify our positions - in a positive way."
Certainly Craig’s involvement in the 2003 ABA Convention in Eugene was as
the field trip coordinator was among his most significant contributions to
the birding community in recent years. Dave Irons provided these thoughts:
"His contribution to the success of the convention was immeasurable. He
spent hundreds of hours making phone calls, sending E-mails, and personally
scouting each and every trip route." He earned the respect of the trip
leaders by seemingly having every detail for all the trips carefully planned
out. He truly wanted to make sure that every birder who came to the
convention got to see every bird species that they were hoping to see.
In addition to being an outstanding birder, he also was a very good father
to his children and was highly involved in his family’s activities. He and
his family are members of the Netarts Friends Church and he comes from
generations of Quaker stock. He leaves behind a wonderful wife Chris and 3
children: Jonathan, Mark, and Rebecca. We will all miss him. May we
continue to emulate his dedication to excellence in all we do.
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