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Scrapbook: Farewell to a Friend of the Forest

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Sierra Club Scrapbook

December 17, 2012

Farewell to a Friend of the Forest


Sierra Club leader and passionate forest advocate Jay Halcomb died on December 1 at his home in Guerneville, California, after a long battle with cancer. He was 66. A trained mathematician, linguist, logician, philosopher, and computer scientist, Halcomb was also a forestry expert who sat on the executive committees of the Sierra Club's Sonoma Group and Redwood Chapter and chaired the chapter's Forest Protection Committee. From 2009 until his death he served as chair of the 10,000-member Redwood Chapter.

Halcomb appeared in the Scrapbook blog earlier this year in connection with the pivotal role he and the chapter played in dramatically scaling back logging of old-growth coast redwoods and Douglas fir in the Bohemian Grove, a 2,500-acre property in Sonoma County owned by the elite San Francisco-based Bohemian Club. Halcomb described the Bohemian Grove as "one of the most remarkable remnant stands of old-growth redwood and fir forest within Sonoma County."


We are deeply saddened at Jay's death, but rejoice in knowing that he lived to see a successful conclusion to the fight he waged for the last six years of his life to save the majestic trees from which he drew so much inspiration.

Jay is survived by his wife of 12 years, Francoise Fleuriau-Halcomb, and a cousin, Kimberly Halcomb. A tribute is planned at the Redwood Chapter's Environmental Awards dinner to be held in March in Santa Rosa, Ca.


Jay Robert Halcomb was born in Santa Monica, California, on September 25, 1946. He received a B.A. from Sonoma State University in 1978 and an M.A. from Arizona State University in 1987, both in philosophy. His major areas of study included mathematical logic, theoretical linguistics, philosophy of language, computer science, and the philosophy and foundations of mathematics. He taught logic at the university level and contributed technical articles to journals and symposia on subjects related to formal logic, linguistics, and the interface of these subjects with computer science. From 2002 until his death he was a partner in H&S Information Systems.

Jay's ashes were buried in the middle of a circle of redwood trees in Sebastapol, in Sonoma County not far from Jay and Francoise's home. A Hopi prayer was read at the ceremony:

Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow;
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain;
I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft star that shines at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

We offer the following remembrances from Jay's friends and fellow Sierra Club activists:

Jay-HalcombVictoria Brandon, Redwood Chapter Acting Chair — Jay was a strong individualist, passionate about literature, philosophy, music, and above all protecting the environment, especially the magnificent forests of the North Coast of California. He was co-founder of the forestry watchdog group Russian River Residents Against Unsafe Logging, and served on the Steering Committee of the Russian River Watershed Council. As chair of the Redwood Chapter's Forest Protection Committee he led its efforts to preserve forests from unsustainable logging and forest-to-vineyard conversion projects such as the proposed "Preservation Ranch" on the Sonoma Coast. Jay served with great distinction as Redwood Chapter chair, demonstrating outstanding leadership. He's leaving a tremendous hole in our leadership. Although his achievements as a Club leader are too many to list, he took particular pride in conducting recent complex negotiations with the Bohemian Club.

Dan Kerbein, Sonoma Group Chair & ExCom Member — We remember and honor Jay, a staunch defender of California's north coast forests. He was a longtime resident of the Russian River area, and joined the Sierra Club to protect local watersheds and forest habitats. He was devoted to his wife Franciose, who attended many meetings with him. Jay was our authority on the Sierra Club's mission and its policies, and put action behind the things he believed. When the Bohemian Club got a state permit to log their Grove, Jay teamed up with ex-Bohemian John Hooper, and led the Sierra Club in bringing a lawsuit. A judge cancelled that permit. In the words of Redwood Chapter Executive Committee member Victoria Brandon, "The forest is weeping today for one of its giants."

John Hooper, Lifetime Sierra Club member — Jay played a central role from beginning to successful conclusion in the battle to save old-growth stands in the Bohemian Grove. It was a pleasure to work with him and his death is a big loss.

Nancy Tamarisk, Redwood Chapter Excom member and Napa Group Chair — To have the zeal and determination of the activist, coupled with a cool head, strategic thinking, and ability to work with a motley cast of characters — rare combination! We need more Jays!

Duane Kromm, Redwood Chapter ExCom, Solano Group — I only knew Jay a little bit through the chapter meetings but grew to greatly admire his intellect and sense of fairness. He will be missed.

Gregg Gold, Redwood Chapter Excom, North Group Chair — We are all enriched by knowing Jay, and the world is a better place because of his time here among us.

Patricia Gatz, Solano Group — Jay was not only a fine man and environmentalist, he was also very effective as chairman of the Redwood Chapter

John Stephens, Napa County Group ExCom member and former chair — A purposeful life full of causes is a full one. What else is there? The life of ourselves and self-indulgences is an empty one.

Dear Francoise,

I will miss him sorely. Many a
Redwood tree, owl bird, and vole mouse
Will also mourn the passing of Jay.
I am glad that you accompanied him
In his championing of the forest.



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