Dr. Charles L. “Chuck” Bellamy—Tribute to a friend

Dr. Charles L. ''Chuck'' Bellamy

Dr. Charles L. ”Chuck” Bellamy

Early this week I lost a good friend. Actually, just about everybody who has ever studied jewel beetles in any serious way lost a good friend. Dr. Charles L. Bellamy, arguably the most ardent and prolific buprestophile of our time (possibly ever), died on August 19, 2013 at his home in Sacramento, California. In a career spanning 30 years that took him from California to South Africa and back (twice!), “Chuck” pumped out more than 200 research papers (including nine research volumes and five book chapters), 27 book reviews, and with Art Evans co-authored the popular An Inordinate Fondness For Beetles! Perhaps his most significant contribution, however, was the landmark 5-volume, 3,200+ page, World Catalogue of Buprestoidea—a true magnus opus that serves as a fitting exclamation point to his remarkable career.

I write, however, not about the loss of a respected colleague, but of a true friend. I still remember receiving a letter from Chuck in late 1991 introducing himself to me, congratulating me on the publication of my Buprestidae of Missouri, and suggesting we might have reason to meet due to our common interests. I was, of course, already familiar with Chuck, as he had by then become well established as a leading authority in jewel beetle taxonomy. It was just a few months later that I would have the chance to meet Chuck in person, when I traveled with the late Gayle Nelson to southern Mexico to join Chuck and seven other colleagues at the 1992 Buprestid Workers Gathering. It was on that trip that Chuck and I struck up what would prove to be an enduring friendship. In the following years he and I teamed up on several collecting trips, first to southern California where he “introduced” me to some of southern California’s classic collecting localities such as Jacumba, Ocotillo, and Glamis Dunes, then to southeast Arizona where he introduced me to his close friend Art Evans, and later to South Africa where we spent three weeks in the veldt (a trip that remains one of the best collecting trips I have ever taken). Eventually we began a series of collecting trips to southern Mexico spanning the years 2004–2006. Declining health eventually put an end to these trips, and while I always hoped we would be able to resume them in the future, I knew that realistically his collecting days were behind him. Still, my family and I visited him and his wife Rose in Sacramento whenever we could, and when we couldn’t I enjoyed his almost daily correspondence by email.

Over the years, Chuck became my most important mentor. I remember mentioning to him during one of our trips to Mexico my interest in being an editor of an entomology journal—along with my doubts about whether I could do it. At the time Chuck was the Managing Editor of The Pan-Pacific Entomologist, and he immediately invited me to become the journal’s Coleoptera Subject Editor. Without his encouragement I may not have had the courage to try, and when the role of Managing Editor became available in 2011 he again encouraged me to take on the role. Chuck may have been the ultimate jewel beetle scholar, but he was also an avid sports fan. I remember fondly our two October trips to Mexico; making sure the hotel we checked into each night had cable television so that we could watch post-season baseball. How we enjoyed watching the Yankees fall to defeat in 2004 (my apologies to any New Yorkers that may be reading) and the Cardinals winning it all in 2006! Perhaps my fondest memory of Chuck, however, was having the privilege to fly to Sacramento and watch my friend being honored as The Coleopterists Society’s .

As a remembrance, I have put together a slide show with photos of Chuck through the years. Although I have only a few photographs of my own (lesson learned: take photographs of friends and colleagues over the years!), mutual friends Rick Westcott and Art Evans have sent to me a number of photographs from their archives and graciously allowed me to use them in this slide show. Chuck was a colleague, my mentor, and my friend. I will miss his sage counsel and cerebral wit. I will miss his encouragement and support. But most of all, I will miss having him as my friend. My heartfelt condolences to his lovely wife Rose, whom I and my family have had the great privilege to know.

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Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2013

20 thoughts on “Dr. Charles L. “Chuck” Bellamy—Tribute to a friend

  1. Thank you, Ted.

    One of my favourite memories of Chuck was him wanting to head out to Napa and Lake counties (California) with my son Elliot and I to look for Bups. (I had brought him some odd ball Acmaeodera and a Trachekele). He was telling Elliot he was bringing a chainsaw to attack trees on some private property near where we were heading. El was maybe ten at the time, and was not buying Chuck’s ribbing. Chuck told Elliot that his scepticism was healthy and to keep it up.

    D. Christopher Rogers

  2. Very sad for your loss, Ted. I knew him only through his works and his reputation. You were lucky to have had him as a friend and mentor for all these years. Harry

  3. Very nice tribute Ted! I knew Chuck for nearly 40 years and shared many adventures with him, entomological and otherwise, on two continents. He was a dear friend, treasured colleague, and a valued coauthor, lab mate at CSULB, and college roommate. Thanks to Chuck, I had the opportunity to study in South Africa at the University of Pretoria. Because of Chuck, I stuck it out when the going got rough! I will miss his companionship, wry sense of humor, entomological insights, and botanical acumen very, very much. My deepest sympathies go out to his wonderful wife, Rose.

  4. Thank you for this lovely tribute. Chuck was a great colleague and friend to so many of us. I had the pleasure of working with him at the CDFA the year before I started my PhD program. He always kept in touch and cheered me on. Seeing him again was a highlight of ESA each year. When I had my first baby, Chuck and Rose surprised me with a thoughtful bundle of clothes. I was so touched. I will miss his sense of humor, his gentle nature, and his friendship dearly.

  5. Prague, August 28, 2013

    I have lost one of my closesd friends among the buprestophiles. Many years ago, in the early eighties, I got a letter from unknown boy from California interested in Buprestidae which started: „Dear Dr. Bily, I would like to study Buprestidae….“. I did not know that it is the beginning of the great frienship for the whole life. We have been cooperated really every day and each paper of mine was discussed also with Chuck. After the fall of the „Iron Courtain“ in Europe in 1989 he was finally able to visit our Department in the National Museum and studied the Obenberger´s collection in Prague. Before this date I was sending him the type specimens from our collection only with incredible difficulties and obstacles, sometimes the specimens were really smuggled by the third person. In our collection he was like in the Heaven and since this visit our friendship started on the „full gear“. He visited Prague several times and after one of his visits we continue to Munich, Bruxelles and Paris and spent a lot of time in these famous collections studying the types and discussing taxonomical problems of our beloved Bups. When he visited Prague for the second time he brought as a gift for me a computer with the complete equipment (at that time it was only a dream for me). When he left the transit area at the airport I could not believe my eyes: he pushed the airport trolley with a pile of big boxes which was as tall as Chuck.
    One of the most impressive meetings with Chuck was the collecting trip to Mexico with several other colleagues from Europe and the States (1992). Thanks to Chuck I and my wife Vlasta had the chance to visit South Africa and to cross the whole Transvaal and the Kruger National Park because Chuck arranged for me two month stay in the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria. In Pretoria we met also his nice wife, Rose. We had a lot of plans but his illness was worse and worse. His last visit of Prague was very short and unlucky; the next day after his arrival he got so serious health problems that he had to leave immediately and I drove him at the Prague airport at 4 o´clock morning in a terrible snow storm. It was the last personal meeting with Chuck and I will never forget it.
    Now I have to thank him „in memoriam“ for his friendship, help, inspiration and many, many reviews of my poor English before the submitting of my manuscripts to various journals.
    (Svatopluk Bílý)

  6. Thank you Ted for letting me to post some humble comments.
    I was one lucky to knew him personally, during the Buprestidae Symposium 1994 Visegrad / Hungary. He was a very modest man, asking me to call him ‘Chuck’ as all did. He was a real American man, always with a smile, never taking anything hard. I was so happy to see some of his pictures with exotic Buprestidae in their environment. I had some email conversations with him when he wanted some infos about some old Romanian publications.
    R.I.P. my mentor, colleague and friend.

  7. Thanks for making this page Ted. Chuck was a great friend and taxonomist. Years ago when I first started getting interested in Buprestids Chuck helped Will Chatfield-taylor and me with finding publications, giving us various projects to work on, and advice on the possibilities of working on various genera. He let us peruse his collections. Gave us his personal time. Gave us connections to expand our horizons. Defended me when I was in the wrong and was very forgiving of my ignorance. There are some people who hoard projects, he was one of the few people I know who wanted to foster the next generation. He will be missed and I am very very sad that I won’t be in California to say good bye in person. Chuck has left behind a wonderful wealth of knowledge that is irreplaceable. I won’t forget the day he bought a sports car to live life up, even then I couldn’t help worry we wouldn’t have him forever. I will be thinking of him as we visit the museums here abroad.

  8. I first started corresponding with Chuck in 2008, when I expressed my interest in becoming a Buprestid systematist. I was soon able to meet him in person when he obtained a job for me at the PPDC where he worked, so I could begin to learn the ins and outs of the entomology world. Chuck was a great mentor and friend, and had a huge influence on the direction I took my education; helping me get into graduate school to study Hesperorhipis systematics at MSU. Though that ultimately didn’t work out, he continued to be encouraging in what I wanted to accomplish. I’ll always remember him both as a mentor and an encouraging friend, who wanted the best for me, no matter what direction my life took.
    I’ll echo William Ericson’s comments above in that Chuck was always concerned with the future of entomology, and always took time to foster the growing interests that the two of us showed. He will be sorely missed, but his contributions, but scientific and personal, have ensured that the future of entomology will always be bright.

  9. To all who posted comments here and sunsetlawn.com, and especially to Ted; words cannot express how grateful I am for all the tributes and memories that have been made thus far. The respect and honor that has been shown to my beloved has been so overwhelming. I find myself at a loss for words. When Chuck and I were first married several years ago, he promised he would show me the world and did he ever come through ! I have had the privilege of meeting several of you and have fond memories of shared meals and laughter. I miss him terribly. He helped me to become a better person just by the example that he set. He was the love of my life. Thank you again for all the heartfelt comments and memories, I will treasure them always.

  10. The way Chuck helped me ever since I first contacted him back in 2010 with some questions (as I was updating BugGuide’s buprestid pages) was really unique. His answers – always prompt, thorough, clear, often peppered with his charming brand of vitriol – were of the kind only someone who cares deeply could offer. And they felt like old friend’s, too.
    Let’s just say I envy everybody who had met Chuck in person and especially those lucky enough to have enjoyed his company in the field and around the microscope. No such chance for me anymore, which makes my loss very painful.

    Excellent tribute, Ted – thanks.

    P.S. There must be something special about bups: I’ve never met a bup specialist I didn’t like as a person.

  11. I first met Chuck at a symposium on the biogeography of Baja California, which was held at California State University, Fullerton during 1977. He was a student at California State University, Long Beach, working on his MS under Prof. Elbert Sleeper and avidly interested in the beetle family Buprestidae. Chuck asked me to suggest an MS thesis topic, for which I offered he revise the (difficult) genus Nanularia. He did, and eventually forgave me for suggesting it–ha! Our friendship lasted, through thick and thin, for 36 years. We collaborated on endeavors with Buprestidae, both in writing papers and collecting in the field. We were on several trips together in the western U.S. and Mexico, and Chuck enabled some of my best memories by inviting me on three field trips to Southern Africa, first while he was a DSc. student at the University of Pretoria, then during his tenure as a coleopterist at the Transvaal Museum.

    Chuck was truly focused on his work with Buprestidae and maintained that work right up until near the end. He always found time for his beloved Los Angeles Lakers—he was an enthusiastic fan of basketball. He was a prolific writer: as best as I can ascertain now, beginning in 1982 he authored or coauthored 202 scientific works plus 27 book reviews. He has one more paper in press! I feel privileged to have participated in 16 of those works, the last of which was published in April this year. Chuck’s most notable contribution to our science was his magnum opus, a five-volume, 3264-page world catalog of the Buprestidae. This was a meticulous 15-year project, a true labor of love and dedication.

    Chuck had a keen mind, and his memory, though it could be selective, was extraordinary regarding Buprestidae. When I last visited him, in May of this year, I showed him a color image of a certain Mexican beetle that was given to him about a quarter century ago, and immediately he told me who sent it to him. However, if I had shown him a photo of a bird from one of our trips together, I doubt he would have remembered it. Like I said, he was focused!

    With the passing of my good friend, the world was made a worse place. Conversely, Chuck made it a better place, and especially for those of us interested in Buprestidae. He contributed so much to our knowledge of that group: he was an avid researcher and a fine collector. He has departed this mortal coil, off to chase that “Great Jewel Beetle in the Sky”, along with other recently departed friends and colleagues such as Bill Barr and Gayle Nelson. I will continue to miss them all!

  12. Thankyou Ted for this page, for your wonderful tribute, and for the opportunity add my comments. It is also good to see so many comments by so many of Chuck’s colleagues.Sadly I never got to meet Chuck in person, though Chuck and I became ‘penpal’ friends corresponding on numerous occassions since the 1980’s, firstly by letters, then in hundreds of emails, and the odd phone call. Chuck was clearly a man driven by a fierce desire to expand our knowledge of the Buprestidae and to encourage others to do the same, and generated such a prodigious volume of work on Buprestidae that it beggars belief that one man could be so productive. I doubt his legacy of work will ever be matched again.

  13. I went to high school with Chuck. I remember him as a quiet very focused and stellar student. He was also a musician and was in a band called “The Second Phase” that played at many of the dances.

  14. Sad to lost one of a very good friend indeed. Sorry for those who was left behind. But then God is good. He has no buzzy beezy worries. Settled peacefully slumbering up high. God bless you and your family.

  15. Pingback: North America’s most “extreme” jewel beetle | Beetles In The Bush

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  17. My grandfather was Dr. Gayle Nelson. I remember going into the desert to collect when he lived in CA. Some great memories! I always had the best insect collections. I remember him speaking many times of the wonderful times he had with all of you. Thank you


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