Nature 21


Dr. James Phillip King

March 20, 2021


KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Dr. James Phillip King of 1031 Berkshire Dr, passed away peacefully Saturday (March 20, 2021) at the age of 90. 

He was born in Chicago, Ill., to the late Thomas and Marie King. 

Jim graduated from St. Rita’s High School in Chicago and then served in the U.S. Air Force as a meteorologist, monitoring the weather patterns in Europe from Morocco. On the GI bill, he earned degrees at Michigan State University (B.S., in forest management, 1957; Ph.D., in forest genetics, 1964) and Oregon State University (M.F., in forest management, 1958). 

In 1963 he married Mary E. Guenther of Portville NY,  having met her on the MSU campus when the two were grad students.

Jim was a geneticist, who began his career in 1962 at the Institute of Forest Genetics in Rhinelander, Wis., studying methods for cultivating disease-free jack pine. He then spent time at the University of Minnesota before returning to Rhinelander with computer knowledge. 

In 1972, he transferred to the Berkeley Institute of Forest Genetics, where he worked on identifying the most suitable species of eucalyptus for reforesting in California. Because of the U.S. fuel crisis in 1978, he was transferred to the Honolulu Institute of Forest Genetics and began planting the fast-growing eucalyptus on the islands with the purpose to be harvested to provide fuel and other wood products. 

He continued his work life in Portville, N.Y. as Village Clerk and in Kalamazoo for Friend of the Court.

Jim was a devoted family man, a wonderful husband and amazing father. He loved jazz, comedy, western novels, long walks or drives with his wife, gardening, raspberry pie and chocolate ice cream (though not together). His wit was razor sharp and while he was often the funniest guy in the room, he was never the loudest. He was reserved, he did not wear his heart on his sleeve; it was way too big for that.

He is survived by his beloved wife of 57 years, Mary King; children, Joe (Teri) King, Bob (Dr. Kristin Moss) King, Daniel (Michelle) King and Kathryn Dennis; grandchildren, Joseph, Jacob, Ryne, August, Jessica, Jimmy and Hailei; great-granddaughter, Erin Evans; brother-in-law, Robert I. Guenther; and several nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents; sister, Eleanor Carpenter; brother-in-law, Herbert Carpenter; and sister-in-law, Sally Guenther.

Jim’s family plans to hold a memorial gathering at a later time. Interment will be in Chestnut Hill Cemetery, Portville.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be directed to Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Portage; Michigan State University Department of Forestry; or to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.

Local funeral arrangements are under the direction of the Guenther Funeral Home Inc., 1303 E. State St., Olean. 

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1303 East State Street, Olean, NY

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