Gary S. Dunbar

1931 - 2015

COOPERSTOWN - On August 16th, 2015, Dr. Gary Seamans Dunbar, Professor Emeritus of the University of California at Los Angeles, died peacefully at Bassett Medical Center in Cooperstown at the age of 84. At the time of his death, Dr. Dunbar had been a resident of Cooperstown for twenty-seven years, moving here after retirement from the Department of Geography at UCLA. His first introduction to Cooperstown had been in 1952 when, as a graduate student at the University of Virginia, he came to the area to research the cultivation of hops for his Master's thesis and was captivated by the village, Otsego Lake and the surrounding countryside.

Gary Dunbar was born June 8th, 1931, in Clifton Springs, the son of Alvin Robert and Esther (Seamans) Dunbar. After graduating from Avon Central High School in Avon in 1948, Gary attended the University of Virginia where he earned a Bachelor of Arts with Distinction in 1952 and a Master of Arts in 1953. He was elected to Phi Beta Kappa (1952), Phi Eta Sigma (1949) and Phi Kappa Phi (1956) honor societies. On April 4th, 1953, he married Elizabeth Tighe in Rochester. In 1956, at the age of twenty-four, he earned his Doctor of Philosophy from Louisiana State University and embarked on a career of teaching and scholarship in the field of Geography.

After a year teaching at Longwood College in Farmville, Virginia (1956-1957), Dr. Dunbar accepted a teaching position at his alma mater, the University of Virginia, where he taught from 1957-1967, rising to the rank of Associate Professor and serving as Chairman of the Department from 1963-1967. While associated with the University of Virginia, he spent a year at the University of Dacca, East Pakistan (now Dhaka, Bangladesh) as a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar. He also taught for two years at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria (1965-1967).

Returning to the States in 1967, he accepted a position as a Visiting Associate Professor of Geography at UCLA and continued to work there until his retirement in 1988, earning the rank of Full Professor in 1970. Gary wrote nine books during the course of his life and published about 160 articles, notes and reviews, continuing to publish after his retirement. 

Endowed with an insatiable curiosity and desire to explore, Dr. Dunbar traveled widely throughout North and South America, the West Indies, Europe, Asia and Africa. He almost always included his wife, Elizabeth and their three children in his adventures. When the children were grown, he and Elizabeth continued to travel together.

While living in Cooperstown, Dr. Dunbar served on the Editorial Board of the New York State Historical Association from 1997-2005, as President of Friends of the Library and enjoyed twenty-five seasons of the Glimmerglass Opera. He was a long time member of First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown. 

His family and many friends will remember his integrity, generosity, intelligence, thoughtfulness, dry wit and quick sense of humor, amazing memory, deep and resonant speaking voice and his courtesy. He was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. 

He is survived by his beloved wife of sixty-two years, Elizabeth (Tighe) Dunbar; his three children, Emily Dunbar-Smith and her husband, Frederick Harold Smith, of Jackson, Mississippi, Elihu Sidman Dunbar and his wife, Maria de la Luz Joachin Palafox Dunbar, of Santa Fe, New Mexico and Esther Dunbar-Cullum and her husband, Peter James Cullum, of Sonoma, California; and four grandchildren, Tighe Elijah Dunbar, Katherine Elizabeth Dunbar-Smith and her fiancĂ©, William Walsh George, Jesse Peter Dunbar Cullum and Esme Olivia Dunbar Cullum. He is also survived by his brother, Alvin Webb (Pete) Dunbar and sister-in-law Waynne Boyden Dunbar; his sister, Sara Dunbar Widlund; his sister-in-law, Jean Daniels Dunbar; and five nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents Alvin Robert and Esther (Seamans) Dunbar and by his brother, Bruce Rex Dunbar. 

The family is planning a memorial service for the Spring of 2016. 

Memorials may be made at this time, if you wish, to the New York State Historical Association, The Farmers' Museum, the First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown or to the charity of your choice. Mailing addresses for the three organizations listed are as follows: New York State Historical Association, P.O. Box 800, Cooperstown, NY 13326; The Farmer's Museum, P.O. Box 30, Cooperstown, NY 13326; the First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown, 25 Church Street, Cooperstown, NY 13326.

Arrangements are under the care and guidance of the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home in Cooperstown.


COOPERSTOWN - A Memorial Service for Gary Seamans Dunbar (June 8th, 1931 - August 16th, 2015) will be held on Saturday, June 25th at 3:00 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown.

In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to the New York State Historical Association, The Farmers' Museum, the First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown or to a charity of your choice.

Arrangements are under the care and guidance of the Connell, Dow & Deysenroth Funeral Home in Cooperstown.

If you would like to send condolences to the family, send an email to Connell, Dow & Deysenroth. We will forward your comments to the family. If you would like to send flowers in memory of the deceased, contact Mohican Flowers at (607) 547-8822, or A Rose is a Rose at (607) 264-3100.