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DABBS, Donald (Don) Laurie

 November 11, 1944 – April 14, 2013

The family of Donald Dabbs regrets to announce his sudden passing on April 14, 2013, at the age of 68. Don is survived by his loving wife and constant companion of 44 years, Karol Dabbs; by his sister Judy Clark (Tom), his brother Bill Dabbs (Kelly) and their families; and by Karol’s brothers Donald Anderson (Katy), Bruce Anderson (Dianne), John Anderson (Irene) and sister Kris Anderson (Rick) and their families. He is also survived by his Aunt Isobel and Uncle Merle as well as many Moulton, Muncy, Dabbs, Anderson and Jones cousins and their families.

Don was a special and beloved uncle to his many nieces and nephews and their friends: Shelly (Ron), Christine (Vail), Elizabeth, Daniel (Brenda), Scott, Travis (Lesley), Tom, Michael, Cody (Jessie), Jim and Liam as well as great nieces and nephews Kaylee, Pippa, Corey, Michael Thomas, Kai, and Henry. He also enjoyed close connections with the children of his many friends.

Over the years, everyone enjoyed his lively and provocative mind and his love of heated discussions around the dinner table about everything from politics to the environment, travel and music.

Don was born in Edmonton, the son of Don and Hazel Dabbs. Don Sr. worked for Canada Agriculture in the field of Horticulture and the family lived on the Research Station and in the village of Scott, Saskatchewan, where Don spent many hours in the coulees hiking, hunting and trapping while photographing everything and everybody. Even at this early age, he revealed his love of technology by setting up his own telephone system with his friend Albert in the trees between their homes.

He moved with the family to Saskatoon when his father, Don Sr. became a professor at the University of Saskatchewan, and after completing high school Don attended university in Saskatoon, where he obtained his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Plant Ecology from the College of Agriculture.

At university, he continued to engage in his passion for photography while working on the student newspaper (The Sheaf) and the annual yearbook (The Greystone). He also discovered an interest in the Arts. While completing his Masters he worked for the Canadian Wildlife Service on ecological studies in the Cumberland Marshes and at Ft. Chipewyan in the McKenzie Delta. In 1969, he and Karol (as field assistant) spent the first summer of their marriage working for the Canadian Wildlife Service on the Athabasca Delta near Ft. Chipewyan.  These wonderful times affirmed Don and Karol’s love of the wild and natural areas of Canada.

In 1971, Don and Karol moved to Calgary where Don began his 40-year career in environmental management. Don was the first biologist hired in the spring of 1971 to begin environmental research for the proposed Arctic Gas Pipeline. It was an exciting time for him: mapping vegetation; identifying rare and endangered plant species; and conducting studies on caribou, polar bear, raptors and fisheries. Don’s role was critical in ensuring pipeline integrity in areas of permafrost, and he was responsible for gathering a tremendous wealth of scientific knowledge of Canada’s Arctic, much of which is still relevant today. He was a pioneer in areas such as developing commercial quantities of seeds of native grass species for pipeline re-vegetation that didn’t damage the permafrost.

After attending the International Environmental Management program at the International Management Institute, Geneva in 1978, Don became environmental manager for Shell Canada’s Alsands Energy Ltd., where he was responsible for regulatory approvals, and government and community relations. Don was always attracted to new environmental technologies, which he advanced through his own consulting firm and senior positions he held over the years with environmental consulting firms and publicly traded companies. He was a recognized expert in community relations and environmental planning and testified on numerous occasions as an expert witness before regulatory tribunals in the US and Canada.

In 1994, Don cofounded Birch Mountain, a public company that traded on the TSX and AMEX exchanges. As vice president, CFO and director, Don was key to Birch Mountain achieving environmental approvals for two major limestone projects in northeastern Alberta and in putting in place a marketing company jointly owned with the Fort McKay First Nation.

Don was also a founding and lifetime member of the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists and served on the board of directors of the Oil Sands Developers Group and the Alberta Chamber of Resources. In addition to these industry activities, he shared his passion for his chosen field by mentoring young professionals.

Throughout his working career, and even more on his journey toward retirement, Don maintained his great commitment to preserving land and the species of plants and animals that inhabit it. Through his tireless volunteer work with organizations such as the Nature Conservancy of Canada (a director of the Alberta region, co-chair of the Alberta Science and Stewardship Committee, and a member of the National Conservation Committee), the Alberta Association of Professional Biologists and the Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park Foundation, he contributed to causes that mattered deeply to him. Don was an avid and talented photographer who generously shared his images to promote various causes. He and Karol were especially excited about their involvement with the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada for whom they recently travelled to Uganda and worked with village primary school teachers on environmental issues.

All these professional endeavors point to the thread that gave continuity to Don’s life: his concern for the environment and the preservation of natural spaces.

Don was a man who never lost his awe of the miracle of life on earth. He loved his family and friends. He loved good food, good wine and good conversation. He was filled with enthusiasm and curiosity in both his professional and private life. Even when faced with enormous challenges, he remained enthusiastic in his belief that things would soon get better. Don was a man of integrity whose vitality and generosity of heart will continue to be an inspiration to all who loved him.

Special thanks go out to friends who were with Karol and Don at the time of his heart attack, to the very prompt EMS response team, and to the wonderful staff at Foothills Hospital.

A celebration of Don’s life will be held on Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. at McINNIS & HOLLOWAY FUNERAL HOMES, Park Memorial Chapel, 5008 ELBOW DRIVE S.W.  Telephone: (403) 243-8200. Condolences may be forwarded through In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made in Don’s memory to the Nature Conservancy of Canada by mail at 830, 105 12 Avenue S.E. Calgary, AB T2G 1A1 or online at and note either Alberta or Saskatchewan, both of which were special to Don.

In living memory of Don Dabbs, a tree will be planted at Fish Creek Provincial Park by McINNIS & HOLLOWAY FUNERAL HOMES Park Memorial Chapel, 5008 ELBOW DRIVE S.W. Calgary, AB, T2S 2L5, Telephone:  403-243-8200

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Condolence Messages

  1. Dr Ron Wallace :

    Don Dabbs was a man of courage, with high professionalism and outstanding ethical conduct. He represented through his work a fine example to all professional biologists. He was a gifted manager and, to a great many others, a friend and respected colleague. He will be deeply missed by all.

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  2. Dori Mezzarobba :

    Don was a warm, gifted individual. I have fond memories of him from university days, especially his quiet patience and keen eye for details as a campus photographer. What a grand couple you made, both highly respected for all your achievements and connections. May God’s peace be with you at this time of grief.

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  3. My condolences to Don’s family. I knew Don mostly through professional contact but I always appreciated his sage and friendly advice on regulatory and environmental concerns. Sorry to hear of his passing.

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  4. Don & Judy Duncan :

    Karol, We were so sad to hear the news about Don. Our heartfelt sympathies go out to you at this time. May time and tears help to soften the pain you must be feeling at this time.

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  5. Tom and Dorothy Colbens :

    We were sorry to hear the news of Don. He was a great friend and a wonderful soulmate to Karol. He will be missed. His wonderful photography and his love of wine were some of his wonderful traits. His spaghetti dinners were a pleasure for his friends. May God give Karol strength and peace during this time of loss and sorrow.

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  6. I was greatly saddened to hear of Don’s passing. He was a greatly respected colleague and associate for almost 40 years. He was an inspiration for many in our profession, including myself. I will dearly miss our regular chats about current issues, old friends and his passion for nature conservation.

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  7. Bill Caulfeild-Browne :

    Dear Karol and Judy, I are so very sorry at this such unexpected news. We enjoyed Don’s company so much at NCC meetings and field trips. It will be hard not to look for him at future meetings because he was always so personable and companionable. I loved to talk photography to you both. I remember the gorilla video in particular.

    While he will be sorely missed by NCC, there is much he accomplished that will always be a reminder of his contribution.

    We hope that Don’s movies give you much to remember him by. We shall miss him but sincerely hope you stay in touch.

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  8. Dear Karol,
    My thoughts and prayers are with you at this sad and difficult time. I remember fondly how you and Don would welcome the staff into you lovely home each year. May your memories give you comfort and peace.
    Love, Helen

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  9. Sheila and Ted Foster :

    Karol, All Calgary divers are so very sad that we will never see another one of Don’s marvellous underwater videos. He was a very gifted photographer and presenter, always a smile and great raconteur. You were a perfect pair together and we send you heartfelt condolences at this sudden parting. I hope you will stay in contact with us through the dinner group.
    Sincerely, Sheila and Ted

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  10. Sheila McLeod :

    Dear Karol,
    I am so very sorry to hear of your loss of Don. I have always admired the stories you shared with me about your mutual interests and travels together.

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  11. I worked with Don way back in the 1970’s when a gas pipeline down the Mackenzie Valley was first contemplated. In later years, after he caught the “gold bug” I talked to him regularly in his role as CFO of Birch Mountain Resources. A very cordial and competent man in any role he undertook and I will certainly miss him

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  12. Don Cleveland :

    Sorry to hear of Don’s passing flew Don around up in Ft McMurray always a pleasure to work with very knowledgeable in his field.

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  13. Ken and Dianne Parker - Stewards at Glenbow Ranch P.P. :

    We send our deepest sympathy to you and your family. Don’s cherished life will always be remembered for his passion for Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park which will remain as a very special place as you continue to live the memories and love of the park. Please take care.

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  14. Bill Freedman :

    Hello Karol:

    I hope that you are well.

    I am so sad to learn of Don’s passing. As you know, I only knew Don through our volunteerism involving NCC. I always regarded him as an enthusiastic and helpful champion of the NCC mission of conserving nature, and I greatly admired his contributions. He and you were also very helpful with the development of the recent NCC history, by donating images of sites, and I am grateful for that collaboration.

    I understand that you will still be engaged with NCC, which I think is terrific. I may see you in Gimli in June.

    Best wishes
    Bill Freedman
    Halifax, NS

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  15. Walter Litvinchuk :

    I was so sorry to hear of Don’s sudden passing. I was associated with Don in volunteer work at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Calgary. Don was a wonderful, knowledgeable and competent man and I enjoyed working with him. Our condolences and sympathies to Karol and their families. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time of grief.

    Walter and Kathy Litvinchuk

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  16. Janet Hildebrandt :

    Hi Karol,
    Thinking of you and your family – I was so sad to hear of your loss. A hug to you – may happy memories help you through.
    Janet Hildebrandt

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  17. William(Bill) Dabbs :

    To Carol and family,
    It was a shock to hear of Don’s passing. My sincere condolences and regrets to both you and his Bother, Sister and friends.
    Bill Dabbs

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  18. Ron & Barb Brookes :

    Dear Karol, we were shocked by the news of Don’s heart attack. I still remember our first meeting at the office and dragging him home to meet my wife and share dinner with us. That was the start of a long and enjoyable friendship. Barb and I send you our love and deepest sympathy. Unfortunately she was diagnosed with lung cancer just before Christmas. After successful surgery in February she is now in chemotherapy and cannot attend but I will be there on Wednesday.
    Our love, Ron & Barb

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  19. Ronald Portelli :

    I was very saddened to hear of Don Dabbs’ sudden passing. He was a special man and a trusted partner in Concord Environmental Corporation. My sincere condolences to his family.

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  20. Brad Anderson :

    Dear Karol, my deepest sympathies. Don I and go back a long ways. He was a great person and I truly valued his friendship. He was a thoughtful director at ACR and balanced resource development with responsible development. I will miss him. I am very sorry for your loss. Brad Anderson

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  21. Peggy Hackl (Cooper) :

    I’m so sorry to hear of your loss. My deepest sympathy to you and your family.

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  22. May you rest in peace, Don. You were an inspiration to me. Take heart, Karol. May you be blessed.

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  23. Barry Lunseth :

    To Don’s Family,

    Please accept my condolences on the passing of Don. Although I was not close to Don, he and I reconnected in Calgary through working with AMEC (he in Calgary and me in Regina). I wished I had known him better.

    Barry Lunseth

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  24. Deo Heeraman :

    My deepest sympathies to the family. God Bless and may you rest in peace Don.

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  25. Bob and Brenda Unger :

    Our thoughts are with you at this time of bereavement.
    Bob and Brenda Unger

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  26. Suzanne Loov :

    Hi Karol – I wanted to let you know how sorry I was to hear about Don. I thoroughly enjoyed my time working with him through Birch Mountain and meeting you and spending time with you both at your home at a couple of your famous spaghetti dinners. I had the greatest respect for him. I offer my condolences and my sincere apologies for not being able to attend the services yesterday. Family commitments kept me away but my thoughts were with you and your family and friends as you celebrated his life. God bless!

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  27. Bev Biccum :

    Dear Karol, I am so sorry I did not know of Don’s passing until today. Please accept Dan’s and my sincere sympathy. We are keeping you in our thoughts and prayers.
    Bev and Dan

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  28. Bozka Malinak :

    Dear Ms Karol Dabbs:

    My deepest sympathy for losing this man of integrity.

    Most of his extended family I never personaly met the man who fought for what is right until his last seconds on this vanity of vanity place. Ms Karol, Shareholder’s of Birch Mountain Resources are with you in those days and we believe Don is continuing his work he undoubtedly gave his life for on this earth.

    Sincere sympathy,
    Bozka Malinak

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