Abstract

James Haskell "Doc" Irwin, geologist, hydrologist, musician, artist, and family man, died on August 31, 1996, at the age of 73. He is survived by his wife, Mary Ellen Irwin of the home, four children, and nine grandchildren. Jim was born on June 2, 1923, to Haskell and Norene Irwin of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Jim graduated from Classen High School in 1941 with honors and enrolled at the University of Oklahoma. Jim's formative years had been profoundly influenced by the Depression, and he learned at an early age the necessity of hard work to achieve his goals. He supported part of the cost of his college education by working nights and weekends at a funeral home in Oklahoma City, where he drove the ambulance, played the organ, and worked as a part-time embalmer's assistant. His dream of entering medical school was interrupted by World War II, and he enlisted in the army as a medic. He was in charge of a hospital train that traveled coast to coast moving injured soldiers from ships to hospitals. After the war, "Doc," a nickname acquired in the service and one that he would answer to for the rest of his life, returned to the University to finish his degree and apply for entrance into medical school. However, during this period he had enrolled in several geology courses as electives, changed his major to geology, and acquired his bachelor's degree. In 1947 he was accepted into the graduate school of geology at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. During this period he spent his summers running samples on test wells at Los Alamos County, New Mexico, for the Atomic Energy Commission. Upon graduation Jim was employed by the U.S. Geological Survey as a geologist trainee and married his first and only true love, Mary Ellen Ely. After a short period, Jim was transferred to Holbrook, Arizona, to map the surface geology on the Navajo reservation. For the next three years, Jim spent his days isolated on the reservation walking the outcrops while Mary Ellen made him a home in Holbrook. In 1953 he moved to Durango, Colorado, and was placed in charge of a hydrologic study of the Triassic Formation in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado for the benefit of the Ute and the Navajo Indians. He coauthored, with J. W. Harshbarger and C. A. Repenning, U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper No. 291, "Stratigraphy of the Uppermost Triassic and the Jurassic Rocks of the Navajo Country." In 1964, after the project was completed, he was briefly stationed in Washington, D.C. for operational training prior to transferring to Oklahoma City as a geologist in the hydrological division. He continued to advance his career with the survey and at retirement was the district chief of the Water Resources Division for the state of Oklahoma. Jim was a prolific writer of technical papers. He also published papers on the "Bidahochi Formation in Arizona", "Geology, Groundwater and Mineral Resources on the Ute Mountain Reservation in Southwestern Colorado and New Mexico", "Geology and Ground Water Resources in Southeastern Colorado", "Underground Waste Disposal, Oklahoma Panhandle", "Ground Water in Oklahoma", and "Water Resources of Oklahoma". He was a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, a past state president and certified professional geologist in the American Institute of Professional Geologists, an active member of AAPG, and a dedicated member of the Oklahoma City Geological Society. He was an active member participant of geological societies and civic organizations wherever he was stationed. Jim's honors include the U.S. Department of Interior Superior Service Award and the Governor of the State of Oklahoma Award as Oklahoma Water Pioneer. After retirement, he dedicated his time to his family, church, and friends, but was frequently called by various industry and governmental organizations for his expertise in hydrology and environmental concerns. He was an enthusiastic member of the Westminster Presbyterian Church choir and his perfect pitch and tenor voice were assets to the group. He was proud of his ability to play the piano, both by sight and by ear. Although he had years of classical piano lessons as a child, he invariably wandered into the realm of his inner ear and most compositions became originals. He loved to play "Malaguena" but invariably with such spirit and innovation that the composer would have difficulty recognizing it. Jim was an avid collector of Navajo rugs, baskets, and pottery and served as a docent at the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. He could always be counted on to share his intimate knowledge of the west with visitors. Jim will be remembered by all who knew him for his integrity, his moral character, and his dedication to his family and profession.

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