Boyd Shaffer, a popular artist and naturalist and one of the longest-tenured instructors at Kenai Peninsula College, succumbed to cancer June 25 in Seattle, his wife Susan Shaffer said. Boyd Shaffer was 90.

Boyd at Sweetwaters Camp in Kenya
Boyd was wooed from his job as a Forest Service foreman in Moose Pass in 1966 into the classroom by Clayton Brockel, founding director of the fledgling Kenai Peninsula Community College. At first, he tried being both forester and educator. During the fall of 1966, for instance, he would turn loose his crew at 5 p.m., rush home to shower, then drive his Jeep 30 miles to Seward to teach a 6:30 class. The next day, he would drive 75 miles to Kenai to teach another class at 7. When his students left, sometimes as late as 10 p.m., he’d make the long, dark drive home to get enough sleep to power him through another day.

Boyd didn’t stick with this part-time college gig because he wanted to get rich. At first, in fact, he was paid nothing for his teaching and received no compensation for his commute, which he did regardless of weather. “The whole thing was on my dime,” he said. And he never cancelled a class.

By 1972, he had moved from Moose Pass to Soldotna and from unpaid adjunct to salaried full-time instructor, teaching art and naturalist studies classes until his retirement in 2002. He established on-campus nature trails and frequently led groups of students through the woods in search of plants, birds, mammals, insects and fungi. He also developed a loyal following of art students by focusing on classic Alaska landscapes, and he tirelessly promoted the college and his naturalist philosophies.

Boyd Jensen Shaffer was born Oct. 17, 1925, in Salt Lake City, the third of six children of Martin and Oneta (Jensen) Shaffer, whom he once called “people of the earth, people who knew what they needed to survive.” Talented at art and deeply curious about nature at a young age, he sketched what he observed. He examined structures and painstakingly recorded them on paper. He pulled apart plants and drew their contents. With the help of neighborhood specialists, he also learned the arts of taxidermy and falconry.

“I started to find as I grew up that there were too many things I didn’t know,” he once said. “So I started reading books—about every living thing, about every kind of animal. By the time I was 12 years old, I knew every bird in Utah by sight and was a member of the Utah Audubon Society. I was (also) a taster. I tasted everything. I was eating all my mother’s nasturtiums before I even knew they were edible. I could live off the land when I was 16 years old.”

By age 12 he was a guest lecturer on bird behavior and identification at the University of Utah. In his teens, he led tours for the world-famous Tracy Aviary in Salt Lake City.

At 18, he was drafted and served in the U.S. Army in the European theater. After he was shot in the leg in the Battle of the Bulge in France, he convalesced in Paris and studied fine art at Sorbonne University. In his late 20s, he was hired as a naturalist consultant by the Walt Disney production company and worked as a wildlife expert and trainer on Disney’s long-running True-Life Adventures film series.

Then in 1958, while vacationing in Alaska, he knew he had discovered his new home. In 1960, he moved his young family to Moose Pass and opened a taxidermy shop to pay the bills. Soon he was working full time for the Forest Service, until the phone call from Brockel that changed the course of his life.

After his first marriage ended, Boyd wed Susan Fry on Aug. 5, 1976, and he continued teaching and exploring and learning. He founded the Alaska Mycological Society and the Kenai Peninsula Botanical Society, and he and Susan took students from KPC to Kenya three times. His volume on local plant life, The Flora of Southcentral Alaska, was published in 2000.

The Shaffers moved to Belize after Boyd’s retirement, and there Boyd performed research on tropical plants, birds and insects and taught volunteer art classes for local residents. As his health began to decline, they moved to Seattle in 2007 to be closer to family.

Boyd Shaffer was preceded in death by his parents; brothers Dale, Dean and Gene, and sister Dorothy (Shaffer) Sain.
He is survived by his youngest brother, David; three children from his first marriage, Boyd Shaffer Jr., Andrea Lauren and Kevin Shaffer, all of Anchorage; wife Susan; daughter Holly (Shaffer) Csiga and son-in-law Bryan Csiga, of Seattle, and their children, Misha and Pippa; plus many other grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
Boyd’s body will be donated to scientific research, and no memorial services are planned.

The family has set up a Go Fund Me page to help retire medical bills:

“He leaves behind a loving family and so many, many friends and students,” Susan said. “In addition he leaves behind his beautiful art. May his DNA adorn the universe from whence it came!”

Below are some photos of Boyd in his natural habitat, along with some of his art.

Boyd's Art Class

The outdoor classroom - Mushroom study

Boyd doing computer Art

Boyd the GI in Nice France  during WW2

Goshawks in winter

The northern lights

Hawkowl at dusk

Resplendent Quetzal