Feb. 3, 1927 — April 2, 2014
George B.E. West, DVM, 87, died at home in Davis on April 2, 2014, after an extended battle with Lewy body dementia. Born in Monte Vista, Colo., on Feb. 3, 1927, he was the eldest son of the late George and Virginia (Marsteller) West, and husband to his beloved Audrey (Hall) for over 61 years.
West was a decorated WW II veteran (USMC), serving on the USS Helena and a peace-keeping team in China. He retired from the USAR as Lt. Colonel and world-class marksman after 34 years of service.
A graduate of UC Davis (BS ’53; DVM ’57; MPVM ’77) and member of several Aggie athletic teams, George worked from 1957 to 2004 as California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) staff veterinarian as well as CDFA liaison to the UC Davis Veterinary School beginning in 1978.
Childhood experience as a migratory farm laborer indelibly shaped his life. After the family lost its Colorado homestead, they joined depression-era refugees following crops around the western states for many years. Schooling took place beside a campfire and food was in short supply, leading to George’s insatiable quest for knowledge and commitment to small-production ranchers who have fed so many in this country.
A baffling case near the start of his veterinary career whetted his appetite for epidemiology. Dairy cattle dying in Solano County did not respond to standard treatments. Working through a torrential rainstorm, George discovered arsenic poisoning resulting from runoff from a nearby school. Solving that mystery led to the first California Governor’s Gold Superior Achievement Award (1962) for emergency disease management, and fixed in West a passion for animal health and safety.
A ringing telephone frequently interrupted family meals. Whether a local rancher or 4-H child was on the line, George responded. His work (with many cold suppers) was honored by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (1994), North American Association of Avian Pathologists (2001), and Cal Aggie Alumni Association Distinguished Achievement Award (1998). Similar recognition came from industry associations ranging from the California Wool Growers (1985) to the Pacific Egg and Poultry Association (1989, 1997). Ben Mattos, California Poultry Federation president in 2001 called West “the most dynamic poultry man in the world.”
West’s passion for veterinary medicine was matched by his love of teaching and mentoring. Among his most coveted honors were designations as “best teacher of the year” by nearly a dozen vet school graduating classes. Many students share fond memories of the story-telling teacher who hosted 5:30 a.m. office hours, often with students lined up at the door. West punc-tuated his stories with photos, typically including a pocket knife for scale. Using the same knife to cut and eat an apple, he illustrated a favorite topic: the animal’s capacity for symbiosis with pathogens of many kinds.
A man of both science and faith, West was an active member of Davis Community Church throughout his adult life, serving several terms as an elder on the Session.
A California veterinarian summarized George’s commitments across the many facets of his life. Writing of his first day of vet school, the former student remarked: “I remember [you] as if it was yesterday, a man who seemed mild-mannered, humble, quiet, sitting on the desk and speaking plainly, with that kind of earthy balance that many folks from the Midwest seem to possess… You paused for a moment… looked at us and said, “Love is the only thing that matters.”
Indeed, love characterized George as father and grandfather. Any of his “kids” walking into the house on a Sunday morning would be greeted with a booming, “Good morning, Glory!” and an offer of eggs and pancakes. With a camera or two around his neck he beamed with pride at school plays, swim meets, and band concerts. His greatest love, however, was his wife Audrey, whose steady resolve and finesse with the family calendar kept him grounded. Her unflagging commitment allowed him to remain at home in his final years, enveloped by the love of family.
In addition to his beloved Audrey, George is survived by four children and their families: George and Kirsten (Hall), with Galen Todd, George and Frances; Audrey and Frank (Crouch); Mark and Marilyn (Lang), with Caitlin and Sam (Dufel), Erin, Zoë, Damien, Melina and John; and Kendra and Fred (Williams). In addition, he is survived by siblings and their spouses: Virginia (Merryman); Starlita (Weubbe); Rock and Louise; Jonathan and Janet Schaefer; Sharon and Lou (Miller); and numerous nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by brothers John and Leif.
A service celebrating his life will begin at 3 p.m. Sunday, May 4, at Davis Community Church, 412 C St. in Davis; a reception will follow at the church. All are welcome. Remembrances are received by the family at home or P.O. Box 375, Davis, CA, 95617. Contributions may be made to the charity of your choice.