Founding member, stalwart bass, John M. Kauffmann dies at 91

JMK on Waterside porch (2)

John Kauffmann, Waterside

John Michael Kauffmann, 91, died peacefully at his Yarmouth, Maine, home on November 16, 2014.

Born in Champaign, Illinois, John grew up in the Washington, DC, area and spent summers at the family’s camp, Waterside, at Christine Lake in Stark, NH. He graduated from The Choate School in 1941 and went on to Princeton University to graduate cum laude in the class of 1945. At Princeton he was a member of the Charter Club and active in theater and music, and lettered in crew.

From 1944-46 John served as a diplomatic courier in Africa and Europe. After World War II, he prepared a history of his Princeton classmates’ contributions to the war effort. He reported at the Washington Star and wrote for National Geographic, including an August 1959 cover story about California’s great sequoias. He joined the National Park Service as a planner, assisting in the establishment of national parks including the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and the Cape Cod National Seashore. In Washington, John helped forge a singing group of Princeton and Yale graduates, known as The Eight (and later as The Augmented Eight). The group still sings in the Nation’s Capital.

In 1972 the Park Service relocated John to Alaska to study areas under consideration for designation as national parks, monuments and reserves. His work contributed to the passage of legislation permanently conserving more than 100 million acres, and his home on Kershner Avenue in Anchorage became a meeting place for conservationists and students.

His 1973 book, Flow East: A Look at Our North Atlantic Rivers, celebrated rivers and canoes, and the people who work to conserve them. In 1980-81 John enrolled at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, whose Dean designated him Honorary Alumnus in 2012. John moved to Mount Desert Island in Maine to co-publish the Bar Harbor Times. In 1992 John published his second book: Alaska’s Brooks Range: The Ultimate Mountains.

In the latter 1990s, John achieved his life’s greatest dream: the permanent conservation of the woodlands around Christine Lake. At the same time John contributed to the founding of a local heritage center celebrating the people and history of Stark, NH. Beside the fireplace at Waterside, he played the guitar and sang well loved songs, such as a crowd favorite of his own composition, “Therapeutic Beer”.

John was a member of boards and organizations including the The Wilderness Society, the National Parks and Conservation Association, and American Rivers; Washington’s Cosmos Club, Metropolitan Club, and Chevy Chase Club; the Alaska Conservation Foundation; and, in Maine, the North Yarmouth Academy, College of the Atlantic, Cumberland Club, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Friends of Acadia, and the Forest Society of Maine.

A memorial service will be held at 1 pm on February 21, 2015, at the Congregational Church in Yarmouth, ME. Services will also be scheduled in Washington, DC, and Stark, NH.

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Posted on December 3rd, 2014 in History and Alumni

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