A passion for nature shaped the life of longtime Fresno City College teacher Robert Winter, who shared his love of plants and animals with generations of students.
Mr. Winter died on Sept. 21 at age 88.
He was raised in Fresno, but it might be more accurate to say that he grew up among the plants and animals of the Valley. He raced homing pigeons and was a falconer, the voice of Dr. Zoo on a local radio station and a founding member of the Fresno Junior Museum (now the Discovery Center).
He shared the knowledge he gained from his experiences with students during more than five decades as an educator, including 40 years at City College.
It was how he taught his classes, though, that inspired many of his students.
"He completely changed my life," said Carl Johansson, a former student and a biology teacher at City College. "This guy had such fire and such passion that I was mesmerized. I wanted to be like him."
Johansson said he took up falconry as a hobby because of Mr. Winter, and they would go to falcon meets together.
"It was amazing watching him interact with nature," he said.
Russell Kokx, another former student who owns a biological consulting firm in Visalia, said Mr. Winter's standard biology class motivated him to stay in the field. He was impressed by Mr. Winter's extensive knowledge on field trips and nature walks.
"He saw everything and heard everything, he was aware of it all," Kokx said. "It was like magic."
Longtime Valley conservationist and philanthropist Coke Hallowell said she met Mr. Winter when she was a volunteer at the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust and watched him lead groups on nature walks.
"He was so wrapped up in nature he couldn't help but share it," Hallowell said.
Retired Fresno State botanist John Stebbins, who knew Mr. Winter for 30 years, said their shared love of biology brought them together. Stebbins decided to honor his friend a few years ago and named a new wildflower species Helianthus winterii, or Winter's Sunflower.
How appropriate, he said, for people on a nature walk to pass a flower named after a man who spent most of his life educating people about the Valley's wildlife.
A celebration of Mr. Winter's life will be held at New Covenant Community Church, 1744 E. Nees Ave., at 11 a.m. Monday. Donations can be made to the Robert Winter Biology Memorial Scholarship, 390 W. Fir Ave., Clovis.
Born: April 29, 1925
Died: Sept. 21, 2013
Occupation: Fresno City College instructor
Survivors: Wife Mary Winter; brother Ted Winter; children, Sandy Winter Gavello, Phillip Winter, Rodney Winter, Alan Winter and Randy Winter; 11 grandchildren; one great-grandchild.
Services: New Covenant Community Church, 1744 E. Nees Ave., Fresno, 11 a.m. Monday
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