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Longtime Boulder resident and internationally recognized botanist, William A. Weber died March 18 at the age of 101. He is pictured here shortly after his 100th birthday. (Cliff Grassmick/Daily Camera).
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William A. Weber, retired botanist and professor at the University of Colorado Boulder and founder of the William A. Weber Collection, died peacefully in his sleep after suffering a fall. He was 101.

Weber, who died March 18, is survived by his three daughters, Linna Weber Muller-Wille of Montreal, Canada; Heather Harris, residing in Sugarloaf, and Erica Rice, of Boulder. Weber also had nine grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

“He was a wonderful father; he and my mother made me who I am essentially,” said Weber Muller-Wille. “We went out camping all summer so he could collect plants, so we got to see some of the most marvelous places around Colorado. He included us in everything, and he opened the world to all sorts of knowledge and opportunities to us by exposing us to science,music, and literature.”

Weber’s three daughters say summers they spent together as kids are one of their fondest memories as a family.

“My dad was the one that was up in the lab, but he loved us and did things with us all the time,” said Erica Rice, Weber’s youngest daughter. “We spent most summers in the mountains somewhere, running around the forest and hiking while he did his work. He was the consummate scientist, but he also was a father.”

Weber, born in 1918, was a natural history professor before his retirement in 1991. He won of the International Association for Lichenology’s 2018 Acharius Medal and became the first recipient of the American Bryological and Lichenological Society’s Lifetime Achievement Awards. He founded the CU Museum of Natural History Herbarium, later named the William A.Weber Collection.

“I think some of his greatest accomplishments were simply his entire work and the worldwide reputation that he built up,” said Heather Harris, his middle daughter.

“The adoration of his colleagues stretches all over the world. Often throughout my life, and still to this day, we would be with people who were astonished that he was my father and wanted to bow at my feet because he was just so revered for his work.”

Although Weber won numerous prestigious honors and distinctions, some of his greatest work was what he did with young scientists entering his field.

“What he was most proud of was things like helping young people go into science, and just seeing them helping the world,” said Weber Muller-Wille. “He was so proud of all of his students as if they were his own children, and they grew to do great things.”

Weber’s contributions to other people pursuing science was motivated by the people who had helped him out in his life, something that he remembered up until the final day.

“The day before daddy’s death, he was talking about the people who gave him a leg up or did something kind for him during his career,” said Rice. “And yet, there were so many people who he nurtured and helped. He really reached out all over the world.”

Weber’s botany background stemmed from his love of nature and travelling. He was a founding member for the Colorado Native Plant Society and an avid traveler, individually and with his daughters, and over his time as a professor.

“Being a botanist and a professor for the college, he used to take field trips with his classes,” said Harris. “One of us used to go on the field trips with them, and that was the best time in the world for me. But he and I went on many adventures together. We went to Nepal, Alaska, Antarctica — which was one of his bucket list spots.”

Weber moved his family to Boulder when there were only about 12,000 people living in the city, and his work around the community made him a local standout to the newly flourishing city. He made a name for himself throughout his life, through science and participating in many capacities throughout the community.

“Many people know about his scientific achievements and involvements, but that wasn’t the only amazing part of his life,” said Weber Muller-Wille. “When we first moved here, he was very involved in church and youth groups, choir and festival choir, and art and literature. He loved to perform, and he could just hold an audience spellbound. He was more than science; hewas dedicated to the music school, singing in choir, and his theatrical career.”

“He sang until the day he died,” said Harris.

Weber took enjoyment in the small pleasures of life, like seeing a certain kind of bird or spending time in nature with his family. His constant enthusiasm and love of being alive stuck with his daughters and is something they will never forget.

“I’ll miss the day-to-day connections I had with him. I’ll miss the little things the most,” said Harris. “The birds are coming back, so I would see a bird that he would love to see, and I would just want to call him and tell him that. All of us were raised in nature with him, and that’s what he brought out of us the most. A love for nature and respect for the environment.”

A broadly accomplished scientist who shared many memories with his daughters and helped build the Boulder community, Weber left a long-lasting legacy around the world. His electrifying energy and seemingly eternal youth will be missed by not only his family but many others throughout the community.

In 2018, Weber told the Camera, “I never thought about being old. I still don’t feel old.”

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