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 www.mcinnisandholloway.com. 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 www.natureconservancy.ca 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: 403-243-8200Print This Obituary & Condolences