Robert Wayne Roth-Nelson

October 15, 1930 ~ May 2, 2020 (age 89)


Robert Wayne Roth-Nelson died on May 2, 2020, at Mesa Vista in Boulder, from complications of COVID-19. He was 89 years old. Born on October 15, 1930, the second child of Robert Wayne Nelson and Jeanne Darling (sister Barbara Jean now deceased), he grew up in Detroit and served in the U.S. Coastguard during the Korean War. He was proud of beginning his education at the Henry Ford Trade School in Dearborn, MI, and going on from there to earn several degrees: a B.A from the University of Florida; a Masters in Urban Planning from Wayne State University, Detroit; a Masters in Environmental Health Management from the American University, Washington, D.C; and, in 1985, a PhD in Environmental Science and Policy from The London School of Economics.

In 1952 he married Barbara Meares, and their daughter Dawn (Bergeron) was born in 1959. After later divorcing, Robert and Barbara remained equally committed to bringing up their daughter. Robert was married to Stephanie Roth from 1988-2000, and together they adopted Jason, at age 9, and Jasmine, at age 7, and continued to be dedicated parents to their children.

Robert excelled in a number of professions. Between 1962 and 1975 he focused on Town and Environmental Planning, working as Director of Land Planning in St. Petersburg, Fla.; Director of Urban Planning for the Westinghouse Construction Group in Pittsburgh, PA.; and New Towns consultant and then chief environmental planner for the DeLeuw Cather & Company /TWR Systems in Washington, DC. After moving to Boulder in 1977 he became principal scientist for the Fish and Wildlife Agency, publishing many studies on managing the environment. After completing his PHD he helped to found the World Wetlands Partnership to promote global research in wetlands management. From 1985-92 he served as Manager at the Battelle Memorial Institute (Golden and Denver), where he founded the Specialty Group for Risk Sciences and oversaw contracts for research into Risk to Human Health and Wildlife Habitat Impact Assessments. His final career, from 1993 until 2012, was probably his most rewarding. He founded Toxic Tort Science, and as its principal scientist he wrote expert opinions and testified for law firms and their clients. Before retiring at the age of 81 he became a Fellow of the American College of Forensic Scientists.

Always intellectually curious, Robert was brilliant in the arts as well as the sciences. He was a gifted writer, poet, sculptor and photographer. Before and during his retirement he travelled widely abroad and enjoyed opera, classical music, and jazz, as well as outdoor activities and tending to his plants. He developed a passion for creative photography, enhancing his pictures of post-modern architecture with a cosmic backdrop.

Robert led a full and adventurous life. Above all he was a kind and generous man who loved his family—his children, his great-nephew Tim and great-nieces Kim and Kerry, and his grandchildren: Robyn Bergeron Block (Dawn and Philip); Aven and Ellis (Jason and Shea); Liam, Levi, Sylas, and Josiah (Jasmine). He will be greatly missed by all of them, and by his life partner of 15 years, Joan Lord Hall. Blessings go with him as he travels the cosmos.

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