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Remembering Tony Dawson

BY GLENN SAPIR
Tony Dawson, 65, of Anchorage, Alaska, passed away in November 2012 due to complications following serious cancer surgery.
My friend, valued contributor and member of OWAA, deserves tribute, and so I wanted to pass along this remembrance.
I met Tony and his then-wife Kathy at the 1982 OWAA conference. They were a young couple in their 30s and 20s, respectively, who had already amassed an impressive portfolio of Alaskan wildlife photography. As an editor at Field & Stream at the time, I was impressed by their brown and black bear photography especially, which in many cases was shot at very close distances. Their pictures captured the animals and their habitat in remarkable light, life and color. Their own Super Cub airplane on skis allowed them to travel across the state and get to where the fun and the photos were.
The OWAA conference became an annual event for the two; the financial sacrifice that I now better appreciate, having made the reverse trip to Alaska this past September. As is the case with many OWAA members, outdoor communication was an important secondary source of income for Tony. He was a veterinarian, and, from what I gather, a darn good one. Any medical discussions we ever held, regarding animals or people, demonstrated his knowledge of the field.
Appreciating Tony’s excellent verbal skills, I took a chance on assigning him an article for Field & Stream. With some trepidation, a feeling that accompanied the opening of any envelope containing the manuscript from an author with whom I’d never worked, I pulled out the resulting article and read it. With each passing paragraph, my smile widened. I had found a writer that showed talent and promise.
Kathy often reminded me that her mother regretted the words I told Tony by phone after reading his article: “Put away the doctor bag. You’re a writer.”
To a great extent, Tony did devote more time to writing, becoming a frequent contributor to Field & Stream and other publications, including Audubon. In fact, when the oil tanker Valdez ran aground in Alaska, triggering one of the worst environmental disasters on record, Tony and Kathy became star contributors to Audubon.
Tony and Kathy later divorced, as their goals in life differed. My communication with both, to my regret, fell off considerably, though Tony and I did stay in touch, especially in the last year of his life. Kathy remarried and Tony got back into veterinary work. He also landed a job as a naturalist for one of the cruise lines, offering lectures and tours at various anchorages while continuing his photography and writing career.
He was an avid hunter and continued to do that often, sometimes with his nephew Tony Bynum of Montana. Bynum, named after his uncle, is an accomplished outdoor photographer and writer himself, surely inspired by the accomplishments of his uncle. Bynum’s comments in correspondence reminded me that his uncle was from Walla Walla, Wash., where Dawson had been married and fathered two sons, David and Kelly. He divorced before moving to Alaska, where he met Kathy.
Tony became incommunicado in the last few months of his life, when he traveled to California for serious surgery for his cancer. He chose not to reach out to family and friends at that time, or during his unsuccessful recovery. The prognosis, however, was grim, and the inevitable word was relayed to me by Bynum from Tony Dawson’s sons. The end had come. We’d lost another friend and OWAA member.

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