Henry Robinson Adams

Henry Robinson Adams, 90, passed away peacefully on February 7, 2015, surrounded by his family. He was a long time resident of Colleymount. Born and raised in Riverside, CA, he was predeceased by his parents, Henry F. Adams and Helen R. Dales, and sister, Ann Karlsson LeFever. Henry was a remarkable man, who accomplished a great deal on this earth, as a Merchant Marine and US Naval Officer, a teacher, a rancher and most important to him, as a husband and father.

As a teenager, he worked in his Grandparents’ orange groves, and had his own small farm with a team of horses. Henry joined the US Maritime Service on his 18th birthday in 1942. During his first tour at sea, his ship was torpedoed by an enemy submarine, and sunk. He was one of eight survivors. He traveled the world while in the Merchant Marines. His journals and stories from this period of his life are fascinating, and include handling of the ships’ medicine chest and false imprisonment twice in the middle east. His awards for his merchant marine service include American Victory, Philippine Liberation, Pacific, Atlantic and Caribbean service during WW II.

In 1949, he rode a converted bicycle/motorcycle from California northward, with the intent of buying land in Alaska. This broke down in British Columbia. He ended up working as a farm hand for Charlie Hunter in Colleymount for a year. He fell in love with the land; this became a life long passion of his, that determined much of the course of his life. He purchased 957 acres along beautiful Francois Lake. He was 23 years old. Many times during this period of his life, he would return to sea to earn money to finance his ranch, his college education and the education of his sister, Ann.

In 1954, he married his lovely wife, Joanne, a teacher from Riverside. Joanne and Henry raised their three children in Pacifica from 1961-1984.

In 1953 he was called to active duty in the Navy on the US Pickaway (1953-1956), as first lieutenant and navigator. In 1956 he was transferred to Explosives Ordnance Disposal, and served as an E.O.D. and diver officer at the U.S. Naval Weapons Station in Concord for three years. His final tour of active duty was as Instructor/ Supervisor of the Nuclear Weapons Disposal School in Indianhead, Maryland. In 1961, he left active duty for the reserves, and later became the commanding officer of Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare 1820, San Jose, CA, from1968-1971. He re-qualified as a SCUBA and second class deep sea diver every year from 1957-1977. When he retired at age 53, he was the oldest qualified diver in the US Naval Reserve, of which he was justly proud. Navy awards included Korean War and American Defense. He was noted for his professionalism, superior leadership and personal responsibility.

Henry completed his education in 1971, earning a M.A. in Industrial Arts from San Francisco State University. He taught math and industrial arts at Mills High School in Millbrae, CA from 1964-1984. He was admired for his innovations in developing new courses for his students, and his remarkable skill and patience in teaching. He was loved by his students, and was voted “Teacher of the Year” in 1974.

Throughout his Merchant Marine, Navy and teaching career, he spent as much time as he could on his beloved ranch. As soon as the teaching/school year ended, they would journey north, with a trailer full of things he had made or collected, (mostly from decommissioned navy ships), to place in his home or use on the ranch. He also built many outbuildings, machine contraptions that he welded together, a harbor, and many boats. With great admiration for the broad axe skill of early Finnish settlers, he carefully deconstructed and rebuilt a historic log cabin on his land. He had a great love of early farm equipment, which he would buy at auction. He later donated a portion of this to the museum in Burns Lake. During the years that he was building his home, his young family rented many different places in Colleymount. Joanne and the children worked alongside Henry. Hugh and Myles Shelford managed his cattle, a good partnership that endured for many years. Mary, Jane and Bill remember time spent in Colleymount as some of the happiest of their childhood.

In 1984, he and Joanne left California and moved full time to their beloved ranch, enjoying a very active retirement. They had dual US/Canadian citizenship. Henry continued to build and create. They raised cattle and horses, both Norwegian Fjords and Clydesdales. Henry was very physically fit, and continued to exercise with weights into his late 70’s. He actively served the community, volunteering doing diving rescue with the RCMP, crisis line counselor, and served in different leadership roles in both the Eagle Creek Recreation Committee, the Fall Fair Association and the Rod and Gun Club. He faithfully volunteered and maintained a weather station for Government Canada on his ranch. He had his own occasional column in the Lakes District News. He was also active in 4-H, Sea Scouts, Tweedsmuir Lodge, and the Canadian Legion. He was an advocate for horse logging, from both an ecological and small scale economic standpoint. He purchased, planted and watered trees at Eagle Creek. In 1992, he was awarded the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of Canada, in ‘recognition of significant contribution to compatriots, community and to Canada’, by the Governor General of Canada. In 2006, Henry and Joanne moved back to California to be closer to family.

Left to cherish Henry’s memory are his beloved and devoted wife of 60 years, Joanne Shearer Adams, his daughter Mary Kaufman of Redwood City, CA, daughter Jane Adams (Andy Hyde) of Kalispell, MT, and son William Adams, of Surrey, B.C. He was cherished by his adoring grandchildren, Anneliese, Kimberly, Sara and John Kaufman, and Molly Adams-Hyde.

Henry had indefatigable energy and a strong work ethic, as well as great enthusiasm and joy for life. He will be long remembered for his great sense of honor, duty and loyalty to both his country and family. He deeply believed in our responsibility to serve our community and world. His greatest pleasure was time spent with his wife, children and grandchildren.

A memorial celebration of life was held on Sunday, March 1 at Trinity Presbyterian Church, in San Carlos, CA. Henry’s wish was to have his ashes scattered on the waters of his beloved Francois Lake. His family are planning to journey to Colleymount this coming summer to honor this final request, and to gather with those who knew Henry to celebrate his life in a place that he loved.


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