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Dale Allen Zimmerman

June 7, 1928 ~ November 10, 2021 (age 93)

Obituary Image


Dale Allen Zimmerman, 93, a resident of Silver City, New Mexico, passed away at his residence on Wednesday, November 10, 2021.

Dale Allen Zimmerman was born in Imlay City, Michigan on June 7, 1928.  Even as a child he displayed a passionate interest in birds, insects, and Africa.  In high school he became a regular visitor to the inner sanctum of the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology where he was encouraged by museum ornithologists. He began attending the University of Michigan in 1946. 

Although continuing his study of birds and his relationship with the museum of Zoology, in his junior year he chose to major in botany.  The following summer he took part in a plant collecting expedition to Mexico, his first taste of another country.  That fall, in a dendrology course he met Marian Allen. In July of 1950 they began a marriage that continued for 61 years.

Dale earned a B.S., an M.S., and finished a PhD in botany in 1956.  That summer Dale and Marian had a long adventure studying plants and birds in Mexico, beginning their long involvement with that country.

Back in Michigan, a son Allan Zimmerman was born in May of 1957.  That summer Dale accepted a job at at Western New Mexico University in Silver City NM, starting a 31year career.

In 1961 Dale rekindled his dream of traveling the world to study birds.  That summer he took his first trip to Africa, tasting the mystery and magic of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.  Within a few years Marian and Allan were able to accompany him to the Dark Continent.  At home there was plenty of time for botanical collections.

In the 70's Dale took a long trip including Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, then India, Nepal and Bhutan.  Later in the decade he and Marian traveled to Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, New Guinea, South America, the Galapagos, and Madagascar.

In 1981 he made a journey into Russia, crossing Siberia to Mongolia, then back to Kenya to meet Marian and Allan.  More travels in the early eighties included the Himalayas, southeast Asia, Malaysia, Borneo, and Morocco.

Meanwhile, through his studies and collections of specimens of birds,he had made many contacts in the world of ornithology, at Cornell University, Louisiana State University, the American Museum of Natural History in New York, as well as colleagues in England and Nairobi, Kenya.This precipitated a collaboration with two other authors to prepare a new book, The Birds of New Guinea.  Dale designed and painted 44 plates for the volume published in 1986 by Princeton University Press. In 1986 he undertook another project as senior author of another volume at Princeton University Press, Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania.

In addition to the above, he has published numerous scientific papers in scholarly journals including many relating to New Mexico ornithology. An accomplished bird artist, who trained under George Miksch Sutton, Dr. Zimmerman is also the primary illustrator of his books, and his paintings have appeared in other works including the 1983 three-volume Audubon Field Guide to North American Birds. Over the years he has regularly furnished drawings for the NMOS to use on their T-shirts and other items.

In 1988 Dale retired from WNMU.  That year he also discovered that he was suffering from macular degeneration.  Undaunted, he continued work on the book.  Trips to Kenya were required.  Other travels included England and Scotland meeting with other co-authors, Manitoba Canada, Chile, the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island, and Antarctica.  Throughout Dale continued work on Birds of Kenya, designing all of the 124 plates and painting 80, and writing the vast majority of the text.  The book was published in 1996.

In 1989 Dale was elected as a Fellow of the American Ornithologists Union.  He also received the F.M. Bailey Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Mexico Ornithological Society.

In 2003, the herbarium at WNMU was officially named the Dale A. Zimmerman Herbarium.  Over the next few years Dale and Marian made a few more trips to South America.  In 2011, he lost Marian.  He pushed forward polishing his memoir of birding adventures in Kenya, Turaco Country, which was published in 2015.  Also in 2015, he received the prestigious Ludlow Griscom Award from the American Birding Association for his contributions to ornithology.  That year he also managed to squeeze in a trip to the Huachuca Mountains and Ecuador.  Then in 2016 he made an excursion to Mexico and visited Kenya twice.  2017 brought one more trip to Kenya and in 2018,two more trips to Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda,while working on another book on East African birds.  By then, his vision problems had worsened to the extent that long travels became impossible.  In early November of 2021 he had a stroke and remained at home with a caring nurse until he passed away on November 10 in his 93rd year.

His bird and plant collections will last far beyond his days as will his magnificent paintings.  In his life he could never cease contributing to the store of human knowledge.

An exhibition of his paintings and a memorial will be held in the spring of 2022 in Silver City and will be announced in the local press.Memorial donations can be made to Southwestern New Mexico Audubon Society.  Checks can be sent to: SWNM Audubon Society, PO Box 1473, Silver City, NM 88062

Arrangements have been entrusted to the care of Baca's Funeral Chapels.

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