In Memoriam: George R. Hampson

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The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death of Oceanographer Emeritus George R. Hampson on November 5 in New Bedford.  George suffered a stroke on October 28 while doing what he loved; he fell ill while collecting sediment samples on board the Buzzards Bay Coalition’s R/V Buzzards Baykeeper in New Bedford Harbor.  According to his son Todd, George passed away “with his boots in the room and mud under his fingernails.” He was 78.

George, a resident of North Falmouth, retired from WHOI in 1997, yet he remained active in scientific research and education. As one of his WHOI colleagues, Stephen Molyneaux, said, “George was a dedicated scientific researcher, as well as a staunch advocate and participant in marine science education. He was equally delighted to be demonstrating ocean sediment coring or teaching a child how to harvest quahogs.”

On October 28, George was teaching Rachel Jakuba, science director at the Buzzards Bay Coalition, how to collect sediment samples. They were looking in particular for cephalocarids, Dr. Jakuba said, “an ancient species of crustaceans that George was very interested in. There is actually a genus of these creatures named after George, Hampsonellus brasiliensis.”

George was a founding member in 1987 of the Coalition for Buzzards Bay, as it was then called. The coalition, he noted at the time, was a citizens group formed to bring “scientific understanding about the bay into focus for the public by explaining the impact of overdevelopment and careless land management in layman’s terms.” That year, he was invited to Washington, DC, to testify at a US House of Representatives panel on fisheries, wildlife conservation and oceanography.

At the Martha’s Vineyard 18th annual Possible Dreams Auction in 1996, a day with George aboard a WHOI research ship garnered $6,000 for the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services.

He also served as president of The 300 Committee, was a member of the Falmouth Planning Board and chairman of the Coastal Pond Management Committee.

George was born in Holyoke to Walter and Milada (Kouble) Hampson, who had met while working in a factory in New Bedford. His father owned the Clinton Silk Mill in Holyoke. The family had a home in Pocasset, and later Nye’s Neck in North Falmouth.

He graduated from Tabor Academy and Northeastern University. He met Barbara Ann Nylund at Northeastern. They were married in 1960 and lived on Old Main Road in North Falmouth for many years.

George started at WHOI assisting biologist Howard Sanders during summers in an ecology course at the Marine Biological Laboratory. He left to join the National Guard, and returned to WHOI in 1961, where he stayed until his retirement as research specialist in biology in 1997.

On its web site, WHOI noted that during his 37 years, George was “field sampler, lab analyst, diver, naturalist and biochemist” and “contributed to studies of marine invertebrates from the intertidal zone to deep water.” He studied the effects of oil spills on Buzzards Bay and classified species of benthic animals.

George was as dedicated to his community as he was to his science.

“His beloved North Falmouth village, as well as the town of Falmouth, have benefited immensely from his passionate participation, persistent dedication and genuine caring as seen in his service as a longtime Town Meeting member, participant at town board meetings, in educational and cultural venues and as a good neighbor,” Mr. Molyneaux said.

He received the Falmouth Historical Society Falmouth Heritage Award and was president of the Save the Nimrod committee that worked to save the historic Nimrod building.

He also served as teller at Town Meeting.

At the opening of the Annual Town Meeting this week, R. Charles Martinsen, deputy director of Marine and Environmental Services, delivered the opening prayer, then asked that Town Meeting “remain standing in honor of those who have passed since our last meeting—especially George Hampson. George was a pillar of our community. His love for science, the government, the environment and Falmouth was contagious. George was a substantial man in both his kind nature and love for others.”

During his retirement, George remained active in education as well. He was senior research associate at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marine Science and Technology. He and his colleague Hovey Clifford of WHOI taught summer fellowship students sampling techniques; organized a series on management of Buzzards Bay from economic and environmental viewpoints for local officials, businesses, educators and students at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, and led local workshops on human impacts on the coastal zone.

In his many roles in the community and scientific world, George urged people to respect one another. During his work to save the Nimrod building, he stressed that to be successful the committee has to work in a civil manner. “We’re not going to get anywhere if we get into an argument,” he told the Enterprise.

Mr. Molyneaux noted that “Friends of George should know he cared for them as much as they for him.”

George leaves his wife, Barbara Hampson; two sons, Todd Hampson and his wife, Ann Hampson, of Saunderstown, Rhode Island, and David Hampson of East Falmouth; his grandchildren, Christopher Hampson and his wife, Cecilia Hampson, of Watertown, Benjamin Hampson and his wife, Catherine Hampson, of Quincy, Joshua Hampson and his wife, Elizabeth Hampson, of Washington, DC, and Elizabeth Hampson of Saunderstown; and two great-grandchildren, Olivia and Jonathan Hampson. He also leaves his brother, Frank Hampson of Pocasset; and several nieces and nephews.

He was predeceased by his brothers Clinton, Roy and Robert Hampson; and his sister, Milada Harlow.

George's "Celebration of a Wonderful Life" will be on Saturday, January 16, 2016 in Clark 507. The family is asking that those who think they might attend, to RSVP before the holidays even with a "maybe" so they can send reminders after the holidays.

(This obituary was written by Deborah Scanlon, Falmouth Enterprise)

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(Photo courtesy Mike Estabrook)

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