Last fall, as I was getting interested in Paul Sears' career, I discovered that Paul Shepard had been one of his students. Correspondence with Shepard's widow, Florence Shepard, sheds a little insight into Paul Sears' later years, and Florence has kindly allowed me to post her recollection:
"We visited Sears, while he was still alive and living in Taos, New Mexico. He was in his 90s at that time, but very mentally alert and involved in continued research as well as active in local ecological affairs. Sears was always so happy to see Paul [Shepard] and they immediately engaged in conversation that continued throughout our visit. Sears was also very interested in other students. One spring (I believe it was 1986), students from the first Yale Conservation Program met in Taos for a reunion with Sears. Paul Shepard was one of about 30 students in that program. …At that reunion, Sears was still mobile (later he was in a wheel chair) and very active. He took the group on a field trip to explain some of the ecology of the area!!
He never stopped teaching and loved to work with graduate students. He was also a talented musician and played the violin for the group."
On the Shepard website, Florence adds that "the names of his admirers... are often more familiar than his." As with those of Paul Sears, perhaps Shepard's ideas have become part of the foundation of our understanding to such an extent that we forget where we first heard them. Or perhaps it is through those inspired by them that we can best get to know these great thinkers and their contributions.