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May-June 2015

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In Memoriam: Gene Bearss (1938–2014)

Gene Bearss of Sanford, Maine, passed away on 13 November 2014 following a heart attack at Mineral Hill in Wakefield, New Hampshire, where he had suffered his first heart attack a few years before. Gene was not a native of Maine, having been born and raised in northern Wisconsin; however, most people would assume he was a lifelong Mainer based upon his mannerisms and beliefs.

Gene joined the Navy at the age of seventeen, thus beginning a round of moves to many states, including Hawaii, Tennessee, Maryland, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. It was while stationed in New Jersey that he met his wife, Marie, whom he married in 1963. After twenty-two years of military service, Gene retired to become a postal carrier in his new hometown of Sanford, Maine.

Although Gene started mineral collecting in 1967, while still in the Navy, he didn't get a microscope until 1975. Prior to that he identified minerals with his hand lens. In 1979 he joined the Micromounters of New England (MMNE). Members of that group knew Gene as a veteran mineral collector with field experience throughout the eastern United States. His favorite collecting localities were the Estes quarry, Maine; Mineral Hill, New Hampshire; Franklin, New Jersey; and Magnet Cove, Arkansas. Gene collected extensively with many people including one of his favorite mineralogists, the late Arthur E. Smith of Houston, Texas. Collectors valued Gene's identification skills for specimens from New England localities, most notably from New Hampshire and Maine localities, but Mont St. Hilaire in Quebec as well.

He earned widespread respect for his mineral discoveries in Maine and New Hampshire. From recovering new minerals to locating minerals not previously recorded as being found at various localities, Gene's skills benefited the amateur and professional alike. He had a special interest in the minerals of the Franklin and Sterling Hill mines in New Jersey, and for many years he attended the rock swap in “The Swamp” trading area and the indoor show there. Gene contributed to the identification and publication of two new mineral species associated with the Franklin orebody: monazite-(Ce) and synchesite-(Ce).

In New Hampshire Gene was the first to report the existence of parisite at the Weeks mine, a new mineral for both the mine and the state. He was also the first to identify jahnsite at Parker Mountain, he collected the rare beryl analogue bazzite at the Government Pit, and both he and Bob Janules found bazzite at Sugarloaf Mountain.

George and Doug Rambo, in their nomination of Gene to the Micromounters' Hall of Fame, said that two of his most significant contributions to mineralogy were the discovery, in a boulder at Mount Mica in Paris, Maine, of the original finds of kosnarite (1993) and mcrillisite (1994). These were microminerals that Gene recognized as possible new minerals. He sent samples to the late Eugene Foord of the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver who analyzed them and determined that they were new species. Although these minerals are rare, Gene generously distributed his finds among the scientific community and serious collectors. He was inducted into the Micromounters' Hall of Fame in 2004, and in 2010 he was awarded a lifetime membership in the MMNE.

In addition to field collecting, Gene contributed articles to several mineral periodicals including the Mineralogical Record, Mineral News, Rocks & Minerals, Micromounters of New England Newletter, and The Picking Table, the bulletin of the Franklin-Ogdensburg Mineralogical Society.

Gene was no shrinking violet at the MMNE meetings. Always ready with an opinion and always willing to share it, his observations ran the gamut from insightful to historically significant. He was often the sole member to oppose any club initiatives. Never at a loss for words, Gene could expound on almost any subject with authority and knowledge. The MMNE meetings were always an informative event as Gene filled members in on the history of sites, people, collecting practices, politics, and almost any other topic. In addition, he loved to vote “no” because he knew that the “ayes” would be overwhelming and his vote would be relatively insignificant. He prided himself in this trait, and I am sure everyone in the club chuckled, as I did, everytime he did it. Despite this, we knew he had a gentle side and was well deserving of our admiration and respect. Things may be quieter now, but his presence is missed.

Gene leaves behind his wife, two daughters, and two grandsons.

 

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