Former ICWA fellow William G. Mattox (1964-71, the North Atlantic)—an arctic geographer and bird of prey naturalist—died on March 7, 2020 in Boise, Idaho after fighting heart failure for 18 months, his widow Joan Mattox said. He was 89.
Bill worked for the Office of Planning and Research in Ohio’s Department of Natural Resources from 1975 until he retired in 1992 as deputy chief and assistant chief of the Division of Water.
He established the Greenland Peregrine Falcon Survey in 1972, leading teams to West Greenland each summer until 1998 to locate nest cliffs of the endangered falcon, tag birds and collect specimens. He continued collecting and publishing Greenland peregrine falcon data in Idaho, as well as results of various raptor studies. Among his conservation work in Idaho, he and Joan founded the not-for-profit Conservation Research Foundation to study raptors.
He met and married Joan Burkland in 1957 while serving in US Army 1956-58 in Stuttgart, Germany. She “was working as a secretary in the Foreign Service at our Consulate General,” he wrote. “Our respective tours ended within a month in early 1958. We drove overland to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), where we arrived in June 1958 by way of Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and India. We flew to Hong Kong and then sailed by freighter to Vancouver BC, then to Seattle.” Driving east across the country, they ended in Montreal, where Bill was enrolled in graduate school.
As an an ICWA fellow, he moved his young family to Copenhagen in 1964 for an extended fellowship that took him to Newfoundland, West and East Greenland, northern Norway, Spitsbergen, and the USSR. The main emphasis of his research was the native fishing industry of West Greenland.
The Danish government published his work Fishing in West Greenland 1910-1966, the Development of a New Native Industry in 1973. “It was the first publication by this office done by a non-Dane and in English,” Joan said, “but the information was so valuable as to warrant the deviation.”
In one of his dispatches for the institute, he recounts a winter trip to East Greenland in 1968. “I was the main attraction,” he wrote. “An American, the Big White Father, Rolex watch and latest Nikon to support the role. I felt suddenly a bit ill—and uncompromisingly weak among other men who knew the harder battle against cold and hunger. Silly words? Try a 20-below-zero diet for a while. Cold is the great equalizer. In fact, I think cold reduces men to shivering idiots.”
Bill was born in Philadelphia on Oct. 3, 1930. He attended Dartmouth College, where he was also a teaching fellow, the University of Oslo, Uppsala University in Sweden and the University of Iceland. He completed his PhD dissertation at McGill in 1971.
He is survived by Joan and three sons.
Read Bill’s ICWA newsletters here.
Read his obituary in the Idaho Statesman here.