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PHARIS, Richard Persons (Dick)

March 19, 1937 – Indianapolis, Indiana
July 3, 2018 – Calgary, Alberta

Following nearly a month in the Foothills Medical Centre, Richard (Dick) Pharis passed away on Tuesday, July 3, 2018 at the age of 81 years.

Dick was born in Indianapolis, Indiana and because of his father’s army career, lived in many U.S. states. His teenage years were spent in the Seattle area where his love of fishing, the mountain and forests developed. There as a boy scout he earned his Eagle Scout status and forever after lived by the motto “be prepared”.
Graduating in Forestry from the University of Washington in 1958, Dick went on to Duke University in North Carolina to gain a Masters and PhD degrees in plant physiology. After a two year post-doctoral fellowship at California Institute of Technology, he began a research and teaching career in 1964 as a Professor of Botany at the University of Calgary. His tenure-ship there persisted for fifty-three years, as did his love for Alberta’s prairies and Eastern Slopes.
Research in forestry, horticultural and agronomy took him and his wife Vivian to many parts of the world, but especially to Australia and New Zealand. Dick became globally recognized for his research in plant hormones, especially gibberellins. His Calgary lab hosted students and scientists from around the world.
Dick was a major force in Alberta’s land conservation movement and in the 1960’s helped found the Alberta Wilderness Association. The Pharis’s travelled extensively in wild places by foot and horse and even camel in Australia. They lived on an acreage on the escarpment of Big Hill Springs north of Cochrane for nearly fifty years, where they kept pack and saddle horses, chickens and a menagerie of pets. They were also residents of New Zealand and for the past twenty-five years operated a vineyard just north of Christchurch that grew grapes for their winery, Torlesse.

Dick is survived by his wife Vivian, sister Lynne of Bellinham, WA, six brothers-in-law, seven sisters-in-law and eleven nieces and nephews.

Memorial Service will be held at the Alberta Wilderness Association (455 – 12 St NW Calgary, AB), on Saturday, September 22, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. Condolences may be forwarded through If friends so desire, memorial tributes may be made directly to the Alberta Wilderness Association, 455 – 12 St N.W., Calgary, AB T2N 1Y9, Telephone: 403-283-2025,

In living memory of Dick Pharis, a tree will be planted at Fish Creek Provincial Park by McINNIS & HOLLOWAY FUNERAL HOMES, Cochrane, 369 RAILWAY STREET, COCHRANE, AB, T4C 2E2, Telephone: 403-932-4740.

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Condolence Messages

  1. Jay and Karen Bartsch

    Hi Viv,
    Karen and I would like to express our condolences and sorrow at the loss of Dick. He was a very special and unique person to science and conservation. He will be missed by all who knew him. Hope better times are in your future.
    Take care, Jay and Karen Bartsch

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  2. Sorry to hear about your loss. Prof. Pharis was always kind to me during my PhD years in Calgary. Whether it be at the U of C gym or in the hallways of Bio Sci., Prof. Pharis always took the time to say hello and fill me in on the latest science/conservation/vineyard news.

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  3. Mohammad Zaman and Shazia Zaman


    I and Shazia were devasted by the shocking news of Prof Pharis death. We met Prof Pharis in Canterbury University when I was working in Christchurch. Later on we worked on a number of projects and patent one product. When I got a job in IAEA, Vienna, Prof Pharis and I worked closely to write Guidelines on rice, cassava, salinity, wheat, maize and vegetable crops to enhance crop productivity with lower environmental foot prints. Prof Pharis was my mentor, close collaborator, the best guide, supervisor and a true friend. We will certainly miss him. May his soul be in rest and peace. Our hearts go to Vivian at this difficult time.

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  4. Alvin D Yanchuk

    Dear Vivian,
    It was very sad for me to hear about Dick’s passing. I remember Dick fondly about his guest lectures at the UA, and meeting you and him at your lovely home, staying overnite, the great dinner and wine. After my stroke, Dick sent me a very touching email. I appreciated that a lot.
    My deepest condolences. Alvin Yanchuk

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