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About Don...

Donald H. Mayall of Palo Alto died on June 28 after a brief illness. He was 85.


Born in Chickasha, Oklahoma, he grew up with nature and a family farm nearby, which instilled a life-long deep attachment to the natural world.


His family moved to the Los Angeles area when he was twelve. Attending the University of California Berkeley, he completed a B.A. in psychology and an M.A. in sociology. His main profession was labor market analysis, including positions with state and federal Departments of Employment. In the 1980s, he authored several occupational guides, published by Jist Publishing, and founded two job market research companies. He worked for SRI during the 1970s. His last professional position was as a planner for Ohlone College, where he was also president of its California School Employees Association (CSEA) local, leading them in a successful strike.


After moving to Palo Alto in 1979, he joined the local chapter of the California Native Plant Society in the mid-1980s, quickly rising to leadership positions, including chapter presidency and chair positions for field trips, rare plants, invasive exotics, and more. He was in the first class of docents at Edgewood County Park (San Mateo County), whose serpentine soils give rise to dazzling displays of native flowers, some rare. Along with his wife, Carolyn Curtis, he participated in the campaign to make Edgewood a natural preserve; that effort succeeded in 1993. He went on to advocate successfully for preservation status for another area with similar rare plants, Coyote Ridge, south of San Jose. His work surveying, mapping, and working with scientists from many disciplines led to a large base of knowledge about the Coyote Ridge serpentine habitat. This solid scientific base played a key role in its preservation.


He became active on the state level of CNPS in rare plant and invasive species matters, lobbying in Sacramento and Washington for funds to combat invasive weeds, which are also a factor in agriculture. Besides authoring several articles for CNPS publications, he mentored many new CNPS members, bringing them further into conservation issues. For his considerable work on behalf of California’s native plants, especially the local and rare ones, he was honored by CNPS, which made him a Fellow in December, 2011.


He was a member of the Board of Directors of the Midpeninsula Access Corporation (MPAC) from 1987 to 1995, for which the Palo Alto City Council honored him in 1995. Also during those years, he was an active member of a video coalition of twenty local environmental organizations, producing and directing half-hour panel discussions and other programs that were aired biweekly on local public access television. One of these was a program on Edgewood, filmed on location and including footage he had taken.


A man of many interests, he served on the board of the California Bach Society along with his wife, and attended its concerts as well as many other early music concerts. His delight in this music included playing Scarlatti, Rameau etc. on harpsichord and piano, for his own pleasure. With broad-ranging tastes, he enthusiastically attended jazz concerts nearby. Later in life, he and Carolyn made annual trips to Los Angeles for L.A. Philharmonic concerts, as well as botanic gardens, museums, and adventurous dining down there. They also enjoyed several Theatreworks seasons with close friends.


He was active politically his whole life, bringing his young son to peaceful demonstrations in his Berkeley days. His involvement continued with several grassroots campaigns, especially in the aughts. He and Carolyn were charter members and officers of the Dean Democratic Club of Silicon Valley, a local activist group.


His favored attire was jeans, baseball caps and teeshirts, especially tees celebrating music and the natural world. Friends and colleagues always appreciated his dry wit, especially during meetings, and his evenhandedness, realism, and solid values.


He was also pretty good at cooking and household improvements. He traveled widely from the time his children were young, and later on always took time in spring to visit as many California wildflower sites as possible. Besides his wife, he is survived by his children, Norman Mayall and Jeanie Mayall; his former wife, Chizu Omori; a brother, Russell Mayall; three stepsisters; and two grandchildren.

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