Lebanon, N.H. — Peter Stettenheim died unexpectedly of an apparent heart attack on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, at the Woodlands in Lebanon where he moved in 2011 from his home of 40 years in East Plainfield. His friends, colleagues and family are thankful that Peter remained vigorous and active, both physically and intellectually, until his passing at the age of 84. Peter had a deep affection for his friends and family, a strong commitment to peace and social justice, and a life-long curiosity about the world around him.
Peter was born in 1928 in New York. His fascination with the natural world began during several summers at a Quaker camp in the Pocono Mountains. He was drawn to the study of birds, first at Haverford College and then at the University of Michigan, where he received his Ph.D. in Zoology in 1959, with field work performed on Nunivak Island in Alaska. His special interests were the study of feathers, functional anatomy, and the evolution of birds. His ornithological career included being co-author of the still standard text Avian Anatomy - Inegument, editor of The Condor, a quarterly journal of ornithology, organizer and first editor of The Birds of North America, a series of life history accounts, and editor of Recent Ornithological Literature, an on-line index to scientific references about birds. He was the recipient of several awards and honors.
Peter’s commitment to science and education led him to be one of the co-founders of the Montshire Museum and to serve as a board member for numerous organizations including the NH Forest Society, NH Audubon, Lebanon College and several ornithological and conservation organizations. His commitment to and enjoyment of his community inspired him to serve it in many other capacities, including as a teacher of adult literacy, presenter of a periodic course on the meaning of birds in art, and, most recently, as a volunteer at the Haven.
Peter was introduced to Quakerism by his mother, and he was a member of several Friends Meetings. He and his family joined the Hanover Friends Meeting upon moving to the Upper Valley in 1969, and he remained active there for the rest of his life. From his alternative service as a hospital aide while a conscientious objector in the 1950’s, to the weekly peace vigils he and his wife Sandy Stettenheim helped organize in West Lebanon for over 10 years, Peter consistently demonstrated that his Quaker belief in working for peace, non-violence and social justice was central to his life.
Peter’s knowledge of and fascination with the world extended far beyond science to art, music, foreign language, history, culture and travel. His curiosity and sense of adventure led to at least annual trips to the far corners of the globe, from Antarctica to Tibet and South Africa to the Arctic. He and Sandy often returned from these trips with additions to their varied collection of native and classic art pieces, which they enjoyed alongside the works created by his late sister, the artist Judith Brown.
While Peter derived great pleasure from intellectual pursuits, his bonds with his family and friends were paramount to him. He and Sandy shared a rich and loving marriage of 46 years until her passing in 2011. His time with his daughter Wendy, son Joel, and their families, and with his extended family, including Judy’s daughter Leslie and son Chris and their families, was precious to him. Though his wonderful conversations, dry wit and warm embrace will be sorely missed, the family takes great solace in a life fully and wonderfully lived.