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March-April 2010

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In Memoriam

In Memoriam: June Culp Zeitner (1916–2009)

June Culp Zeitner (1916–2009)

June Culp Zeitner passed away peacefully in her home in Rapid City, South Dakota, on 11 October 2009, at the age of ninety-three. June will be remembered as an inspiration to thousands of collectors who used her Gem Trails book series as field guides to collecting localities throughout the United States. In total, June published a dozen books and more than one thousand articles in various magazines, including Rocks & Minerals and Lapidary Journal. But June was much more then a writer. She lived the life of a collector and shared her passion with anyone who expressed an interest in rocks of any sort.

I fell in love with June Zeitner in 1956. She was forty, and I was four. It did not bother me that she was married to Albert Zeitner because she always had time for me and my incessant questions about fossils. I never fell out of love with her, and she was still able to teach me about fossils, geology, and life until the day she died. How I hope that I can maintain my vigor for life and desire for learning the way she did.

June was born in Michigan in 1916 to Pearl and Vernon Culp. The eldest of five sisters, she became the organizer for sisterly fun and serious activity. After the family moved to South Dakota, where June graduated from Northern State College in Aberdeen, she moved to Minneapolis and worked briefly as an artist. In 1937 she took a teaching position in the high school at Mission, South Dakota. (One of her students happened to be my father, Neal C. Larson.) June later became superintendent of schools for the county. When she first disembarked from the train in Mission, in the heart of the Rosebud Indian Reservation, she realized she had arrived at a place far from the culture of the college town where she had grown up. Mission seemed to be at the edge of the world, and as she put it, “I sat down on my suitcase and cried.” Fortunately, one of the first people she met was Albert Zeitner. It was Albert and his father, G. B. Zeitner, who kindled her interest in rocks, minerals, and fossils.

The Zeitners owned a hardware store in Mission and also the Zeitner Geological Museum. In the museum was a wonderful collection of petrified wood, fossils, artifacts, and rocks of all types. June volunteered to research and label the collection—a maneuver she thought might attract Albert's attention. It did, and soon he began inviting June on one-day collecting trips to the badlands. After spending a great deal of time together working on labeling and expanding the collection, Al and June were married.

It was in 1949 that the couple decided that work was getting in the way of what they really wanted to do: go field collecting. So June quit her job, and Al sold the hardware store, and they purchased a 31-foot travel trailer. The plan was to take a year off and travel the United States in search of minerals, fossils, and rocks. The year went by, but the two were not yet ready to settle down. They were having the time of their lives.

June had found a way of supplementing their income by submitting articles on their collecting experiences to the various trade magazines. With undying moral support from her adoring husband, she expanded her literary skills to include the writing of books, beginning with Midwest Gem Trails (and its subsequent series), and delving into historical subjects such as The Unfinished Dream (the story of Mount Rushmore), and the more scientific subjects, such as Geodes, and Gem and Lapidary Materials: For Cutters, Collectors, and Jewelers. The one-year odyssey slipped into two, two into three, and three into thirty—and still the field trip continued.

After Albert's father passed away, June and Al kept the Zeitner Geological Museum open during the tourist season. It was in the museum where I recall my earliest memories of June. I had picked up my first fossils on my parents' ranch, 8 miles out of town, and with their help I brought the specimens to the museum to have them identified. Behind the counter stood this beautiful lady (and that's how I've always thought of her: as a lady) who looked down at a local four-year-old and said, “Call me June.” She carefully examined my specimens, a few scraps of fossilized bone and a single black enameled tooth. “This is an oreodont tooth, but these bones are a little more difficult to identify except to say they are from mammals,” she said.

“How did you know that?” I asked. She pulled a book off the shelf and opened it to a page that, sure enough, had a drawing of a tooth that was very similar to the one I had found. “What's an oreodont?” I asked. Thus began our love affair. She was my mentor from that day forward.

I grew older, moved away to college in Rapid City, and June and Al expanded their field trips to Mexico and Canada. But we always kept in touch. June never tired of feeding my interest, nominating me for membership in the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, and suggesting books to read, and always answering and asking questions. I was not her only student; there were always hundreds of others with whom she gladly shared her time and interests. Many of these were never able to meet her in person but knew her through her publications and the letters they exchanged.

June was active in the various gem and mineral societies throughout the country, actually helping to organize and found a large number of them. She and Albert were familiar figures at the gem and mineral shows held each year in many states. When June was not collecting, making jewelry, or writing about rocks, she was lecturing or answering questions from readers. In her spare time she successfully lobbied in states across the country for the adoption of state gems, minerals, and fossils.

In 1976 at the International Gem Show, June was crowned the “First Lady of Gems” with a tiara constructed of gemstones from each state in the Union. It was also in 1976 that the National Federation of Press Women honored June as the South Dakota Woman of Achievement.

In 1986 June and Al purchased their first nonmobile home in Rapid City. Although Albert had slowed down a little over the years (he was fifteen years June's senior), June kept a tight schedule of writing, lecturing, and attending shows. She also continued to collect. Because I lived only forty-five minutes from June and Al's new home, I had the opportunity to invite them along on the occasional field trip to collect fossils or minerals. Al passed away in 1995, but June continued to collect with me for several more years. One of our last trips took place in 2000, when she and her nephew Steve Anderson joined me to visit a new Morrison Formation site with Jurassic dinosaurs.

In 2009 June was still working on new book projects. One was a book about the state stones; a second was a new book on the badlands. As a scientist, I believe that the secret to June's longevity was her insatiable curiosity, her thirst for knowledge, and her absolute need to share her information and questions with all who expressed an interest. In 2006, June received the Carnegie Mineralogical Award from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History for significant contributions to the science of mineralogy. I wish that there were an award for the Best Mentor of All Time.

June, you will always be my favorite rock-star!

- Peter L. Larson

In Memoriam: Erich Offermann (1920–2009)

Erich Offermann (1920–2009)

Erich Offermann, Swiss mineral collector, mineral photographer, and amateur crystallographer, died 10 December 2009, just two months short of his ninetieth birthday, after a long struggle with the realities of old age.

Erich had an early interest in crystals and crystal drawings—a letter (from camp?) to his parents when he was ten reports, “I found many crystals, and I'm bringing them all home!” However, his parents urged training in a more profitable discipline, so he became a lawyer. He was employed by the Swiss chemical company Geigy, which he served well but without much enthusiasm.

Erich developed his interest in crystals and their shapes by studying crystals from the classic European localities, especially those in Switzerland, and the mineralogical texts that described them. He did this on his own, in the absence of formal training in mineralogy. He got to know not only the collections but also their curators at the Swiss museums, especially those in Basel and Bern.

Erich's interest in crystals and their forms led him to become an accomplished photographer of minerals. His photos were aesthetic, but he always sought to portray the three-dimensional (3-D) geometry of his crystal subjects at the same time. In his early work he preferred daylight for illumination, seeking the right atmospheric conditions to get the appropriate shading for the image he was trying to capture. Later, he adopted fiber-optic illumination, often using five or six small “light pipes” to get the image just right. One of his edicts was “You cannot take a good picture of a bad sample,” and he refused to work with specimens that he considered inferior. His photographs were widely published in European and American mineral magazines, but perhaps the best credit to his photography in his own country is that a set of his photos was selected to decorate the foil covers of single-serving coffee creamers, competing for attention with photos of the Swiss Alps and other icons of the Swiss culture.

Erich had a particular interest in the photography of 3-D images as stereopairs. His house in Arlesheim had posters of 3-D images employing several different stereoimaging technologies. This interest led to the production of a book about European minerals and mines, composed entirely of stereopair photographs, and to his donation to fund stereopair viewers for an issue of the Mineralogical Record in 1987 that included several articles with stereopair photographs of minerals.

Erich was an enthusiast for Swiss minerals, and his modest collection's best pieces were samples from Swiss localities. For several years he was an investing partner in the operation of the Lengenbach quarry, which has produced so many unusual and remarkable sulfosalt minerals during the past 150 years.

Erich had relatives in California and from his early years visited the United States frequently. As a consequence, his English was advanced even for a Swiss person, many of whom routinely speak four or five languages, including English, with some degree of comfort. Erich conversed easily in English with sophistication and humor. I first met Erich in 1988, when he came to the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium to participate in a special symposium on mineral photography. There I demonstrated an early version of SHAPE, the program for drawing crystals. Erich was fascinated. When I showed that the crystal drawing could be rotated on the screen using the numeric keypad, he was quite excited. He asked if I could produce a stereopair drawing, which I did. He was hooked.

Although nearly seventy, he went home and bought a computer and started to study crystallography and learn to use the computer, a word processor, and the SHAPE crystal-drawing program all at once! (Who does such a thing at this age?!) Ultimately, this led to a tapering off of his production of mineral photographs, but a flourishing of computer-generated images of crystals, which included puzzles for Swiss collectors' magazines, Christmas cards, and ultimately a three-volume set of books called Kristalle und ihre Formen (Crystals and their Forms), composed of drawings and photographs covering his range of interest in crystal morphology, photography, and drawing. He also published many patterns for the construction of 3-D crystal models—Chlötzli as he called them—by cutting and folding and gluing patterns printed in two-dimensions on card stock.

Erich had a great commitment to the aspects of mineralogy that interested him. He was an enthusiast and a teacher. He was probably one of the foremost amateur morphological crystallographers in Europe. He bridged the linguistic/cultural gap between Europe and America by dint of his experience with both. Those who knew him and his various contributions to our avocation will certainly miss him.

- R. Peter Richards

In Memoriam: Arthur Edward Smith Jr. (1935–2009)

Arthur Edward Smith Jr. (1935–2009)

With the passing of Art Smith, the mineralogical world has lost a giant, and many of us have lost a great friend and mentor. Arthur “Art” Edward Smith Jr. was born on 29 May 1935 in Teaneck, New Jersey, to Arthur Sr. and Carol Gilcher Smith. Art, along with his brothers, Richard and Robert, attended and graduated from the local Bergenfield high school. During these years he had no real interest in minerals or geology, nor was he exposed to either of these in school.

In 1953 he enrolled as a general science major at Wheaton College in Illinois. During his sophomore year, he took an introductory physical geology course and then was hired to assist on a school-sponsored geology field trip through the Southern Appalachian Mountains. This experience led him to register for the geology field camp course held during the summer in the Black Hills. After attending that camp, Art was “hooked” and changed his major to geology. The summer after his graduation in 1957, Art worked as a teaching assistant for the Wheaton College geologic field camp in the Black Hills. In the fall, he enrolled in the graduate program at the University of Missouri, where he wrote his thesis on the origin of layered igneous rocks adjacent to some of the Black Hills pegmatites.

After obtaining a masters in geology (1959), Art enlisted in the army and was assigned to the Corps of Engineers in Washington, D.C., working as a geologist on beach erosion projects. This experience gave him an edge in obtaining a job in 1963 as an exploration geologist with Texaco in Houston. In 1965 he met and married Elizabeth “Betty Jean” McKim; their son, Brett, was born two years later.

In 1974 Art left Texaco to join the small, independent oil company Murphy Baxter as their exploration-development geologist. He stayed with them until the company was sold in 2000, when he retired at age sixty-five. He was a very successful “oil-finder” in the Texas Gulf Coast trends. His prospects resulted in numerous discoveries and many development wells, including the Alabama Ferry Field in the late 1980s.

In 1986, Art and Betty Jean were struck by a drunk driver who ran a red light. Although Art recovered, Betty Jean could no longer work professionally, so Art started Mineral Design, a gemstone bead business, for her. He investigated the mineralogy of any beads they acquired, and together they published a pamphlet on gemstone beads (Smith and Smith 1990). Unfortunately, Betty Jean's health continued to deteriorate. Art was her primary caregiver for twenty-two years until she passed away in 2008. The Houston Gem and Mineral Society (HGMS) established the Elizabeth Jean Smith Scholarship fund in her memory.

The HGMS Mineral Section formed the core of Art's mineral activities (Smith 2009). In fact, he was one of the collectors who founded the Mineral Section in the mid-1970s. He was a frequent speaker at meetings and always encouraged younger, inexperienced members to give presentations. At HGMS shows, he volunteered at the Mineral Section booth to identify minerals, and he helped design the displays and the large walk-in fluorescent mineral booth. The November 2009 show marked the first time in forty years that Art was not at the booth manning a microscope.

As a result of Art's influence, the society provided a portion of the Texas minerals on display at the Houston Museum of Nature and Science in 1974–76. Also, during the 1970s, he mentored the young collector Joel Bartsch, who is currently president of the museum.

Art started the school collections program at the HGMS more than fifteen years ago, at the suggestion of a member who was aware of the lack of hands-on teaching materials in the Houston area schools. He obtained funding from a major oil company (now ConocoPhillips) and put together collections of rock and mineral specimens to use in the teacher kits he assembled. This educational program is still going strong, distributing over one hundred kits every year.

Art was the driving force in building the HGMS library into one of the best collections of books and periodicals on minerals, mineral locations, and mining history of any society, and it is even better than many university libraries. Art donated many of the books, and obtained and bound copies of all the major journals pertaining to mineral collecting, including a complete set of Rocks & Minerals and the American Mineralogist. This library is the crowning achievement of his legacy to the HGMS.

Art's mineralogical activities are almost legendary. He specialized in all Texas mineral localities, Arkansas quartz and phosphates, Magnet Cove minerals, minerals of the New Hampshire and the Black Hills pegmatites, and the San Juan Mountain ore veins in Colorado. His Texas specimens included the central Texas pegmatites, Terlingua mercury minerals, and salt dome minerals of the Gulf Coast. He was an active field collector, mineral trader, and buyer. He was one of the few people who had collected his own chambersite crystals from the dumped salt dome residue. His associates sometimes referred to him as the most knowledgeable person on all Texas localities and minerals.

He was an avid micromounter, especially of Arkansas phosphates and New England pegmatite minerals. He once wrote in the HGMS Backbender's Gazette that one should always break up and examine unwanted specimens for cavities before discarding them. With all his collecting activities and his attention to micromounts, eventually an unknown mineral was bound to turn up. Artsmithite, a mercury-aluminum-phosphate from the Funderburk prospect, Pike County, Arkansas, was named after him by Roberts et al. (2003) from a specimen he found in 1995 (Raines 2004).

The New England pegmatite micromounts were often obtained during summers when Art stayed at the family camp on the shores of Round Pond, Wakefield, southern New Hampshire, that he shared with his brother Richard who was married to Betty Jean's sister. After 1990, Art would often get together with mineral friends to collect, attend mineral shows, and research locations. He often spent several weeks there each year, usually during the hottest part of the Texas summer.

His literary activities were even more prolific than his collecting. He researched and knew the mineralogy and collecting histories of all the places he visited. For magazines and mineral club bulletins, he compiled numerous state mineral locality and mining bibliographies, state locality indexes for Rocks & Minerals, field collecting adventures, micromounting columns, and locality mineralogies. His articles were published in Rocks & Minerals, Mineralogical Record, Matrix, Gems and Minerals, Lapidary Journal, Mineral News, and mineral club bulletins, especially the HGMS's Backbender's Gazette. He wrote Bibliography of Colorado Mining History (1993), Collecting Arkansas Minerals (1996), and, with Betty Jean, Knowing Gemstone Beads (1990). A complete bibliography of Art's publications would easily exceed a hundred. What I have always considered his Grand Work was his Mineralogy of Texas, a book that he had at least printed as a working draft in 2005. Owners of these copies treasure them as the best single source of information on Texas minerals.

Art served as a consulting editor of Rocks & Minerals from 1987 until his death. Under his influence, the HGMS Mineral Section was a strong financial contributor to the magazine, especially to its Color Fund.

Art's network of friends was extensive. During the years when he could travel freely, he attended the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show and mineral shows in Texas outside the Houston area, as well as in New Hampshire and Colorado. He was a founding member of the Coon Creek Association (1973–2002), an informal collecting group that shared Arkansas collecting trips, stories, and friendship. Travel tales of this group of phosphate lovers were often recounted in Mineral News. Art was an active trader of minerals, maintaining widespread correspondence with mineralogists and collectors across North America. He often gave specimens away, especially to beginning collectors. Several collectors observed that he tried hard to give better than he got. He was known for his helpfulness, kindness, calmness, and dedication.

Art had a profound effect on my growth as a mineral collector, as he did with many others. As a twenty-two-year-old, I was introduced to him within weeks of moving to Houston in 1973. A month later, I was at his house, viewing his minerals and reading his typed notes on central Texas mineral localities. From him I learned about and later visited the Arkansas phosphate localities of the Coon Creek Association. He also gave me pegmatite specimens from Maine and New Hampshire, duplicates of specimens he had recently purchased. Although I left Houston in 1974, we continued to trade specimens; share mineral trading partners, references, and publications; and visit at shows and in Houston during my periodic moves. In 1989 Art helped with my Mount Antero research, examining and photographing bazzite on bertrandite through his microscope. In 1995, just after I was repatriated from Jakarta, I visited him in Houston. We sat in Art's converted patio-to-mineral room looking at specimens, old mineral books, and collection of carved frogs. I drank coffee as Art told of changes to the Mineral Section since 1989. His microscope still sat nearby. In July 2008 we looked at the results of his success in acquiring the Philadelphia Academy of Science specimens from Texas's Barringer Hill pegmatite, with original Niven labels. This time, I was able to provide some references and publications for Art.

Art passed away 12 November 2009 in Houston, after a battle with cancer. He is greatly missed by his son, Brett; his brothers, Richard and his wife Janet McKim, and Robert and his wife Nancy, and their families; his wife of ten months, Nancy Farah Smith and her family; the members of the Houston Gem and Mineral Society; and his many friends in the greater mineral community.


1. Raines, E. (2004) Who's who in mineral names: Arthur E. Smith Jr.. Rocks & Minerals 79:4, pp. 245-47.

2. Roberts, A. C., Cooper, M. A., Hawthorne, F. C., Gault, R. A., Grice, J. D. and Nikischer, A. J. (2003) Artsmithite, Hg41+Al(PO4)2-x(OH)1+3x, a new Hg1+-Al phosphate-hydroxide from the Funderburk prospect, Pike County, Arkansas, U.S.A.. Canadian Mineralogist 41, pp. 569-73.

3. Smith Jr., A. E. (1993) Bibliography of Colorado mining history., L. R. Ream Publishing, Coeur d'Alene, ID.

4. Smith Jr., A. E. (1996) Collecting Arkansas minerals., L.R. Ream Publishing, Coeur d'Alene, ID.

5. Smith Jr., A. E. (2009) Letters: Houston Gem & Mineral Society.. Mineralogical Record 40:3, pp. 259-60.

6. Smith Jr., A. E. and Smith, E. J. (1990) Knowing gemstone beads, Mineral Design, Houston.

- Mark I. Jacobson

In Memoriam: William C. “Bill” Forrest (1940–2009)

William C. “Bill” Forrest (1940–2009)

On 9 May 2009, William C. “Bill” Forrest passed away at his home in Clovis, California, after a courageous battle against lung cancer. He was surrounded by his loving family. Bill was born on 13 August 1940 in Merced, California. He grew up in Chowchilla and later attended West Hills Community College (City of Coalinga) and Fresno City College. In the mid-1960s, he went to work for Laval Underground Surveys, where he met Elvis “Buzz” Gray, who shared his interest in mining and prospecting. At first, many of the trips these two took together were to explore for minerals and sluice for gold in the Mother Lode country.

Soon, this led them to search farther afield, and in 1966 they came across the Benitoite Gem mine, where they became acquainted with the lessee, Clarence Cole. Upon Cole's death in 1967, Bill and Buzz leased the mine from the owners and started production once again. They purchased the mine outright in 1986 and, using heavy machinery and processing equipment, uncovered thousands of specimens from the veins and alluvium. Bill was particularly good at preparing specimens to sell to collectors and museums. They sold the mine in 2000.

Bill and Buzz's interest in mining extended beyond benitoite, and in 1979 they, along with Bryant Harris, Dave Eidahl, and Tom Smith, purchased and developed the Colorado Quartz (gold) mine, an underground crystallized gold mine in Mariposa County, California (see the feature article on this mine in the September/October 2009 issue of Rocks & Minerals). After working the mine for a few years, they sold it in 1987; however, Bill's interest in gold mining continued throughout the rest of his life. After the sale of the Benitoite Gem mine, Bill's expertise with heavy equipment led him once again to the gold areas of the Sierra foothills, where he worked a number of gold properties, most notably with Ed Coogan and Pat Franco, until the last few months of his life.

Bill owned and operated Fresno Powder and Equipment, and this connection took him to almost all of the active gold mines in the central region of California to deliver dynamite. He would talk with the miners to learn what material was coming out, and he purchased numerous fine specimens of crystallized gold to sell to collectors.

Bill enjoyed many things in life including salmon fishing and RV traveling. He also loved spending time with his family, especially his grandchildren. Bill is survived by Hilda, his high school sweetheart and wife of forty-seven years; his sons, Scott Forrest of Clovis, and John Forrest and his wife, Susie, of Bakersfield; his grandchildren, Branden, Andrea, and Troy Forrest; and his sister, Margy Meredith, and her husband, Tom, of Sanger.

- Michael Gray

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