Obituary for David Ulmer Jr.
David Christian Ulmer, Jr., passed away under the light of a full moon (a super moon!) on January 2, 2018 at his home in Longmont, CO. He loved the stars and the sky so it is not surprising that he passed on to a new life during the first celestial event in the new year.
He preferred to be called Dave. But his friends and family called him many other names that grew from his friendly and welcoming personality. Before his passing, he asked for us to write an Ode to Poppy rather than an obituary. Here is our Ode to Poppy!
Dave met Mary, his bride of 51 years, at Camp Pocono at Lake Wallenpaupack, PA. He was the waterfront director and Mary was the nurse at this summer camp for boys. Interestingly, Dave and his bride shared the exact same birthday (May 26, 1940) and were born just hours apart on opposite sides of the country. They married on December 27, 1966, in San Francisco. Together they traveled on five continents, lived in five cities (Aspen, Colorado Springs, Lincoln, NE, Temora Australia, and Longmont) and always welcomed friends wherever they might be. One of their most treasured traditions was making pancakes in the mountains on an old camp stove. Breakfast in the mountains always included chocolate chips for the pancakes, warm syrup, hot coffee, and good conversation. Everyone was invited, including the dogs.
Dr. Dave was an accomplished educator and scholar. He graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 1962 (and remained a loyal and devoted fan of Penn State football), earned a Master’s degree from University of Pennsylvania in 1966, and completed his doctoral degree at University of Nebraska Lincoln in 1982. He created a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) program for high school students long before this integrated curriculum was popular in the main stream. As a teacher, he devoted long hours and weekends hosting bridge building competitions and operating the school district’s first and only planetarium. One of his greatest joys and proudest achievements was a year-long teaching exchange program in Temora, New South Wales, Australia in 1994. He finished his teaching career at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs teaching science methods and supervising student teachers. He was a talented and skilled educator who motivated and inspired thousands of students over his 45 year career.
Dave was a quiet, persistent, and trusted leader. He served in leadership positions of the following organizations: Alpha Tau Omega at Penn State University, the Colorado Midland Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, CITEL (Colorado International Teacher Exchange League), and the YMCA Dad/Daughter program. He spent hours writing letters, lobbying politicians, making phone calls, writing articles for newsletters, sharing his opinions, and inspiring others to get involved and make a difference.
Dad loved trains. And photography. And clouds. And weather, astronomy, space exploration, traveling, exploring, hiking, running, swimming and enjoying the great outdoors. He loved wildlife, wolves, the environment, the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, and any organization that protects and cares for the earth. He supported progressive politics and was not shy about sharing his opinions.
He enjoyed spending time with his dogs (Woodsy, Pocono, Ranger, and Sparky) – walking with them, photographing them, and making scrapbooks of their adventures together. He loved grilling on the back porch. His hamburgers, fish, and steaks were requested by many friends and family. He had a sophisticated collection of spices and rubs and always remembered who liked which kind. His little fridge in the basement was always full of the finest craft beers and he was very proud of his beer can collection. He savored donuts and coffee in the morning and cookies and peppermint tea in the evening.
Dave respected the printed word. He subscribed to three newspapers, read The New York Times on holidays, and loved the cartoons in The New Yorker. He combed through the cartoon section of the daily newspaper, clipping and saving those that caught his eye, and dreamed of writing a book for educators to use cartoons to teach science methods.
Poppy loved museums, especially railroad museums. He was an active volunteer at the Colorado Railroad Museum and wrote guidebooks to help visitors and kids get the most out of their time there. With the help of friends and family, he wrote Fumey that was published by the museum in 2016. Fumey is a story for kids about the adventures of the Galloping Goose in the Colorado mountains. Poppy spent a summer learning about astronomy at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City and was a supporting member of every museum he visited, including the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Smithsonian.
Dave’s kindness to others was returned to him many times over in the care from those who tended to him in the last few years. As he lived through the debilitating stages of ALS, he ended each day with genuine thanks to each person who had helped him that day. His grace in dying was admired by everyone. His spiritual foundation was rooted in the Great Spirit and love of the earth.
David is survived by his wife Mary, two daughters Christine (Paul) Madar, Jeanne Ulmer, granddaughters Alexandra Madar and Vivienna Madar and brother Charles Ulmer. He is preceded in death by his parents David and Anne. An informal gathering is planned for friends and family on Sunday, January 7th at his home.
The Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund were two of Poppy’s favorite organizations. Donations are welcome in his memory:
The Nature Conservancy: https://www.nature.org/membership-giving/more-ways-to-give/tribute-honor-giving/index.htm
World Wildlife Fund: https://secure.worldwildlife.org/donations/memorial-donation.aspx?sc=AWE1700OQ18553A01636RX