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July-August 2018

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In Memoriam: Rudy Tschernich (1945–2017), Keith Ward Proctor (1937–2018), Diana Lee Weinrich (1964–2017)

Rudy Tschernich was almost singularly focused. Zeolite could well have been his middle name. It is admirable when someone devotes most of his life to a quest to learn everything that can be known about a particular subject.

Rudy was born in Snohomish, Washington. How fortuitous! A hotbed of zeolite localities was right under his nose. But I am getting ahead of myself.

His father, Rudolf Wenzel Tschernich, was born in Haida, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), in 1911, and in 1912 his family left their native country and moved to Washington State—a gutsy move at the time, to be sure. Rudy's mother, Edith Mae Ollom, was from South Dakota. The family lived in Snohomish their entire life and so did Rudy.

Almost without exception, for most people the love of minerals stems from an encounter at an early age, and Rudy's interest started with a visit to Yellowstone with his parents when he was eight years old. I can relate—just gazing at the amazing formations there can rope you in. He became especially interested in fluorescent minerals and lapidary (we'll forgive him for that one). By ten years old he was a member of the Snohomish Lapidary Club, and at age sixteen he became the club president! He rewrote the club's history with that job—the youngest president ever! At Western State College (now Western Washington University) he majored in geology, graduating in 1967.

We're not sure when Rudy picked up his first zeolite specimen in Snohomish County and was mesmerized by the crystals. For the rest of his life, however, his focus was on the zeolite group, which has more than fifty different species. Not only did he collect, but he was also responsible for the discovery of some new zeolite species: cowlesite, boggsite, and a mineral described in 1972 and named, deservedly so, tschernichite; it was found in Columbia County, Oregon.

Rudy traveled to places such as Ireland, England, Scotland, Canada, and all over the western United States in search of zeolites. In each place he would study the specimens at the various museums. To say he was passionate about zeolites would be an understatement.

“Neither snow nor rain … “, that famous line from the U.S. Postal Service's unofficial creed, could apply nicely to Rudy, who worked for the registry section of the postal service in Everett, Washington, but all the while he continued his education and study of zeolites. Along with his bachelor's degree he had a teaching certificate in education, earth science, and general science from Western Washington University. He also did graduate work in geology at this university, as well as at the University of Montana.

Zeolite Research and Exploration was a company Rudy started in order to go deeper into the study of zeolites, and his vast collection of self-collected specimens was used partly to generate funds for his study. Like so many collectors who specialize, he built his personal collection through trades, field collecting, and purchases. He amassed a collection of twelve thousand zeolite specimens. His book Zeolites of the World (now out of print and highly collectible) is a standard reference on the subject.

Rudy founded the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Friends of Mineralogy, was a member and past president of the Northwest Micromineral Study Group, and published more than thirty professional papers that appeared in such journals as the American Mineralogist, Rocks & Minerals, Micro Probe, and Mineralogical Record, among others.

The northwest gallery of the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals, in Hillsboro, Oregon, is named in honor of Rudy, and his entire collection was donated to the museum, where he was curator from 2003 to 2011.

On Rudy's Mindat homepage he posted more than thirty thousand photographs of zeolite minerals—all with detailed information. He was also a collector of mining lamps and candlestick holders.

Rudy was a kind, generous man who always had time to talk with beginning collectors about zeolites, and he could carry his own among a bevy of PhDs clustered around a pile of zeolites. Despite his accomplishments, I don't think there was a braggadocio bone in him.

During the past few years Rudy's health declined rapidly, and his last days were spent in a hospital. His only living relative, his son, Randy, was by his side. Per Rudy's wishes he was cremated, and his ashes will be scattered at a favorite collecting spot.

I hope you meet up with some fellow field collectors, Rudy … you will be missed here on Earth!


Dona Lee Leicht and her husband, Wayne, have owned and operated Kristalle in Laguna Beach, California, since 1974.

Keith Ward Proctor (1937–2018)

Anyone who has attended the annual Tucson or Denver shows could not help but pause at one special display case and marvel at the beauty of the crystals on exhibit. Keith Proctor was one of the few collectors in the early days who routinely paraded his collection for all to see.

Keith Ward Proctor died on 21 February of this year. His wife of fifty-one years, Mauna, and his daughters, Mariah and Brook, were by his side. Keith also leaves five grandchildren (two girls and three boys). At his memorial service on 3 March, the sound of his favorite classical music filled the room.

It would be an understatement to label Keith as a passionate collector of minerals. I often wonder where that passion stems from with collectors. For Keith, it began in Idaho Springs, Colorado, after his parents, Lyle and Betty Proctor, moved there from Denver to open a restaurant. Keith was ten years old at the time. What is a ten-year-old to do in Idaho Springs but wander off to the mine dumps there and start collecting those shiny rocks like pyrite and galena. Having local miners frequent the restaurant, showing off their jars of gold nuggets, would get any kid excited.

Enter Gordan Nedblake, a mineral aficionado, who owned a clothing store in Idaho Springs and would trade clothes to the miners for specimens. He displayed specimens in his store window—how could Keith not notice! Gordon was an avid “horse trader” and a great mentor for Keith during his teenage years. (Gordon died at his retirement home in Arizona in 1995.)

After high school graduation in 1956, Keith attended the University of Colorado where he received his bachelor's degree in biology, chemistry, and pharmacy (a triple threat), as well as a master's degree in molecular biology in 1964. He said he never did anything with that degree in molecular biology, but anyone who heard him spout mineral formulas and affinities would recognize the connection to his degrees. After college, Keith started teaching high school in Frisco, Colorado, where he was instrumental in forming a science club.

Keith met Mauna Allen at the University of Colorado where she taught English as a foreign language. They married in 1967. Mauna encouraged Keith's passion for mineral collecting, and by the late 1960s he was collecting high-end minerals, and many dealers couldn't wait for him to walk into their booth. Teaching never gave him the luxury of “mad money” to spend on minerals. After leaving teaching, he began to work for Hoover Vacuum Company, and, yes, we did always refer to him as “the vacuum cleaner guy.” In fact, my first meeting with Keith was over a Hoover vacuum! It was a sort of tongue-in-cheek joke, but he really did come to our house and vacuum the rugs. He would roam the world with that ever-present fat suitcase full of minerals to visit with collectors and do some buying, selling, or trading. He always thought it was funny that vacuums gave him enough money to purchase the very best minerals.

One thing about Keith that absolutely escaped me was that he was a jewelry designer. Of course! That is part of why his interest in gem minerals was prominent in his collecting. Shortly after the great find of tourmaline at the Jonas mine in Brazil, Keith traveled there and acquired the famous specimen known as the “Rose of Itatiana,” and it was his signature piece in his displays at Tucson, Denver, and Munich. (Editor's note: See a photo of the specimen on page 392 of this issue.) The specimen was awarded the Victor Goldschmidt Prize at the Munich Show. He received an unprecedented three McDole trophies at Tucson. The “Rose” was eventually sold to the late Saud din Muhammed At Thani of Qatar. His new signature piece became a magnificent rhodochrosite from the Sweet Home mine nicknamed “Big Red.”

One could call Keith an informal dealer—he did form a few companies here and there (one called Keith Proctor Precious Gems), but he never was behind a show booth as a seller. His deals were from that old suitcase and personal visits. Keith sold a collection to Scott Rudolph some years ago when most of us had never heard of this new collector from Oyster Bay, New York. Keith continued his acquisitions around the world, and the collection was rich in those gem crystals he loved, silvers, golds, the best of new finds and classics.

In choosing his specimens Keith was intense and focused, almost to the point of ignoring anything or anyone around him while he studied a specimen. Dealers became accustomed to this particular habit and usually set him in a corner of the booth to ponder his acquisition—perhaps for a few minutes or a few hours! But, we can't argue that he didn't choose the very best for form, color, and locality. Keith was a big spender early on, and we were all taken aback in 1976 when he paid David Wilber $100,000 for the now-famous twinned morganite on rubellite; that was the most expensive mineral sold to date. Keith, I suspect, could see that someday minerals would be commanding prices comparable to fine art. His observation was that when offering minerals for sale, the most expensive ones (usually the best ones) were the first to sell.

Mauna and Keith traveled to many countries in search of fine minerals; Brazil was a particularly favorite destination because he adored tourmalines. His five-part series about the great gem mines of Brazil, published in Gems & Gemology (beginning with the Summer 1984 issue), is worth finding for the wealth of information therein. Another of his favorite places to visit was Norway. His 1998 video of The Proctor Collection is an in-depth study of his collection. In 2002 his educational video Buyers Guide to Building a Fine Collection offered up some very good advice.

I'm not certain of the exact number of specimens in the Proctor collection, but I would guess it was nearing one thousand, some of which are familiar to us because many of the pieces have appeared in numerous worldwide publications. Keith and Mauna have donated hundreds of specimens to the Geology Museum of Brigham Young University–Idaho. Students there who view the minerals just might be our collectors of the future. I believe Keith was hoping to inspire them.

Keith was a devout Mormon, and in 2001 Mauna and Keith did missionary work in Spain for eighteen months. Recently, and continuing, is their service work with prisoners at the State Penitentiary in Canon City, Colorado.

The Proctor collection was handed over to Collector's Edge Minerals to sell shortly before Keith's death.

I could fill many more pages about Keith Proctor, but let me refer you to a wonderful article about Keith published in the January/February 1988 issue of Rocks & Minerals (pages 40–56).

Keith was the consummate collector, respected for his knowledge and keen eye. It is sad that yet another of the legendary collectors is gone. Certainly, he will be missed at the shows.

Keith, you gave the mineral world a visual feast every time you exhibited, and for that we thank you.


Dona Lee Leicht and her husband, Wayne, have owned and operated Kristalle in Laguna Beach, California, since 1974.

Diana Lee Weinrich (1964–2017) ​​​​​​​

It was sad news for the mineral community when we learned of the sudden death of Diana Weinrich, who was only fifty-three years old. Anyone who knew her appreciated the fact that she was vibrant, energetic, and fun loving. Her face would light up when she saw you, and she had a particular interest in mentoring women in the mineral world. After marrying Dan Weinrich on 12 January 2007 in Key West, Florida, she immediately became an avid mineral enthusiast.

Her organizational skills played a big part in their business, and together they built a very large customer base. The Weinrich auctions have enabled both fledgling and seasoned collectors to add to their collections.

Diana was a great influence and helpful organizer for the first Women's Mineral Retreat in 2016. Many of us signed onto this fun event in Colorado, and as a group we had a great time visiting the Denver Museum of Nature and Science with Larry Havens as our host. We went on to dinner, then an early morning trip to dig at the Dorris's Topaz Mountain Gem mine, in Park County, Colorado, with Krystle Dorris as our host. We were all diligently digging away when we heard Diana's happy cheer as she held up a fine topaz! She was pretty pleased with her day and for good reason.

We found ourselves back in Colorado Springs for the final night in a private dining room for all of us ladies, and what a dinner that was! Lots of stories were told, and there was much laughter—Diana was always good for any number of entertaining updates and had us in stitches. I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one with a sore stomach from laughing so hard!

One of Diana's many attributes was her ability to make everyone feel welcome and cared about. I would often watch her at the Tucson, Springfield, and Denver shows with pure delight as she greeted people. Many passersby seemed amazed that she remembered them. Her ability to talk to youngsters was inspirational, and her kindness to everyone was quite special.

Diana's daughter, Stephanie Marie Pacino, preceded her in death, and Diana chose to be buried near her. She never stopped loving her daughter and kept her alive in her stories and in her heart. She held such sadness with grace.

Her husband, Dan, told me that he met Diana when she lived in Florida in an apartment across from his. She put her cat in the hallway to involve Dan in the “rescue,” a rather determined woman's way to break the ice! They went on to fall in love, and they never stopped loving each other. Their home was filled with romantic quotes, devotion, and fun. Their love was evident to anyone who saw them together.

As for me, her constant singing of “Delta Dawn” at all hours of the day and night was her way to tease me. I disliked that darn song so much! I would get a text, a voice mail, whatever it took to make me sing that song in my head. I got even by bringing our mutual friend Evan Jones into the fun by asking him to sing it to her during the Main Show in Tucson. A woman overheard us and said she knew all the words and could sing with us. She was amazing and had the sweetest voice. When we descended on Diana and started singing away, she wagged her finger at me and joined in the singing. I believe I got even, at least for then! Thank goodness for her eternal sense of humor and for being a good sport.

Diana had dealt with breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and a heart condition but still kept her energy and joy of life. She left us too soon, and I, for one, will never forget her. Rest in Peace, dear Diana, my friend. “Delta Dawn” will never be disliked by me again. In fact, I'm humming it right now …


Gail Copus Spann and her husband, Jim, are collectors of fine minerals and have immersed themselves in the hobby during the past dozen or so years.

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