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In Memoriam: Keith Axelson – by Lys Axelson.

July 21, 2018

IMG_4973Most people aren’t aware that Keith was an accomplished pianist at a young age winning contests playing classical music. Or that he was run over as a boy sustaining serious injuries that kept him in the hospital for a lengthy time wearing a body cast and nearly losing his leg. Or that he went into WWII as a teen where his unit, The 81st Infantry Division, was involved in one of the bloodiest assaults in the Pacific Theatre on Anguar Island. There he was wounded twice in combat leaving him disabled for life. Later he was awarded the Purple Heart with an Oak Leaf Cluster as well as the Bronze Star for good conduct.  He was lucky to come home.  He was a lifelong patriot and very proud of his service to America. Most don’t know of these chapters of his life.

After the war, he was trained as a Commercial Artist at Trade Tech in Los Angeles, then proceeded on to graduate from Otis Art Institute  where he met and married his first wife, Ruth, and had two children.  He worked in two large art studios before moving on to open his own studios and ultimately freelancing until he retired.

He was a self educated naturalist learning about the natural world through his innate curiosity, fastidious note and journal keeping as well as reading everything that interested him. His vast wealth of knowledge will be missed by many.

He was often called an “Eco Warrior” as he wrote thousands of letters persuading numerous government agencies, clubs, U.S. Presidents, Senators and individuals to protect important ecosystems and surrounding important areas. His other concerns  ranged from nuclear testing to Wind Farms to Desert Motorcycle Racing.  We can all thank him for his steadfast opinions and dedication to preserving the natural world.  If not for his persistent bombardment of numerous Federal and State agencies many of the places that we know and love would be damaged or gone forever.

He was an award winning nature photographer known for his unaltered artistic black and white photos that frequently won contests that included color photos in the same category. Publications included L.A. Magazine, Audubon Magazine and Sierra Magazine.  In the late 80’s he was invited by Canon to show an  exhibition at the Ginza in Japan.

Building his own 8″ telescope in the 60’s entailed grinding his own optics. A self taught astronomer, he had the ability to read printed star charts to locate any object in the sky.  He studied and tracked pulsars and photographed comets as well as other astronomical events, planets and stars.

His expertise as a top notch world class birder goes virtually uncontested. He had an ability to remember the tiniest field marks to distinguish between different birds.  He was not a “lister” so his actual list count is not known, though he could tell anyone where in the world he had seen a bird in question. He was a world traveler visiting all continents and important birding islands and countries.

On a light note, he was a self proclaimed coffee fiend, indulging in a cup at any time of the day or night.

He lives on, after 92 years of spectacular life, in his son Kit,  daughter Lys, grandson Blake and all that took the time to know him. He will sorely be missed.

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