Stephen Andrew Czerkas, 1951 - 2015
Stephen Andrew Czerkas
Director and Co Founder of The Dinosaur Museum
Sculptor, Scientist, and Author
September 19, 1951 - January 22, 2015
Born in Alhambra, California, Stephen Czerkas spent his early career sculpting dinosaurs and other creatures for the Motion Picture Industry. In 1981 his career transitioned into commissions for life-size dinosaurs from museums in North American and world wide. From 1992 to the present, he Co Founded and Directed The Dinosaur Museum.
His early scientific publications focused on dinosaur skin and ornamentation, and Stegosaur plate arrangement. His later research and publication explored the relationship between dinosaurs and birds.
Stephen published several books and catalogues for the general public which clearly explained paleontology. Some of the publications accompanied exhibits which he co organized and traveled to other museums. The themes of the exhibits were "Dinosaurs - A Global View", "Feathered Dinosaurs", and "Dinosaurs in the Movies".
He is survived by his wife, Sylvia, Co Director and Co Founder of The Dinosaur Museum who, in loving memory, will carry on his legacy. He is also survived by his sister Crystal Merryman-Sarbacker and his niece, Ashley Merryman.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that condolences be made in contributions to The Dinosaur Museum to further his work at 754 South 200 West, Blanding, Utah 84511
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"The death of Stephen Czerkas is a heart-breaking and heavy blow to me, both professionally and personally. I met Stephen in 1988, right after I was hired by the then nearly-brand-new New Mexico Museum of Natural History. My first task was to finish the curation work on the under-construction Cretaceous exhibit hall ("New Mexico's Seacoast"). Stephen had been contracted to produce life-size mosasaur and dinosaur sculptures for that hall. I well remember going over Stephen's studies, particularly of the mosasaur. Fresh in my mind is our discussion of the eyes of that mosasaur--should they have slit or round pupils? The decision was easy for Stephen--the mosasaur's closest living lizard relatives have round pupils--and I readily agreed. That was Stephen Czerkas--a great artist of prehistoric life determined to get it right based on all the best available data and inferences.
"Stephen was not a professionally trained scientist. He was a self taught paleontologist, and very well taught. He published important papers on dinosaurs--on the plate configurations of stegosaurs, on dinosaur skin impressions and, particularly, on the dinosaur-bird connection. His published work shows that Stephen went into the dinosaur-bird connection accepting the consensus view that dinosaurs are the ancestors of birds but emerging as a skeptic. One of Stephen's last scientific articles (published in 2014 with Alan Feduccia) evaluates the avian nature of Scansoriopteryx, a little proto-bird from the Jurassic of China, to argue cogently that if that animal is a bird, it cannot be a dinosaur descendant. To me, Stephen thus embodied the best scientific qualities--a willingness to criticize, challenge and reconsider all scientific conclusions, even one's own.
"Stephen's death is thus not just the loss of a remarkably talented artist, but of an important scientific voice in paleontology. And, it is also a great personal loss to all of us who knew him. To me, Stephen Czerkas was a kind and gentle man, a good soul in this turbulent world, which so desperately needs more such people. Now we have one less good man among us. Stephen Czerkas will truly be missed.
Spencer G. Lucas
"I was very sad to hear of Stephen's passing in January. I first met Steve, as I always called him, and Sylvia in California in the mid-1980s. I had then barely relinquished my work on the Paleozoic paleontology of Wales, and was getting interested in dinosaur tracks, which are so abundant in Colorado and Utah. Having had an artist mother and scientist father, I was very taken by the Czerkas commitment to integrating science and art. It was an honor to be invited to participate in the landmark Dinosaurs Past and Present conference, which in 1987, brought together top dinosaurs scientists and artists to produce what is still a much cherished two volume set of the same title. It was through this project that I met many other top dinosaurs artists (and scientists) and was encouraged to include quality artwork in my scientific publications whenever possible.
Thus, I was thrilled when Stephen and Sylvia moved to eastern Utah and began the herculean and visionary task of building the Blanding Dinosaur Museum - a most amazing creation by any standards. I visited the museum and the Czerkas home many times, often with students, and was always warmly welcomed, sometimes staying or camping there while doing field work in the area. Telling people "this just shows what truly creative people can do," it was also an honor to retire one of our tracks exhibits to the museum where it resides alongside other significantly more spectacular, and eye catching exhibits.
Over the years Stephen make a significant mark on vertebrate paleontology, especially with his ground breaking reconstructions of Stegosaurus andDiplodocus, iconic dinosaurs which until then had still been incorrectly reconstructed. Stephen had extraordinary talent as a sculptor-artist, and if one could sum up his work in a single word it would have to be "quality." He produced this with the gentleness of touch and sensitivity characteristic of a truly authentic renaissance artist. Many of us are pressured to hastily complete projects, but never Stephen, as far as one could see. He surely had many a tight deadline, but one always got the distinct sense that his message was "we want it done right don't we; we want authenticity?" There is no doubt that Stephen made a huge impact both in his generation and beyond. I've been privileged to meet many interesting paleontologists and call some good friends, but none more so than Steve and Sylvia. They came to the high country with high ideals, and in the name of authentic science and public education, created high art. If by any chance you have not been to the Blanding Dinosaur Museum, your paleontological education is incomplete. Make tracks there right way and be prepared for the full impact of Stephen's amazing creations. His legacy is unique and my memory of him warmly cherished. Martin Lockley, Dinosaur Tracker, University of Colorado
I shall always remember him as a very talented and creative artist whose inquiring mind imparted veracity to his paleontological restorations. More importantly, he was a genuinely nice person whom I always looked forward to seeing. My thoughts are with you at this sad time.Dr. John M. Harris, Chief Curator
The sorrow of his death deeply engulfed my heart filling my eyes with sadness. I gave thought of all the words of condolences that one could express in times like this I chose to omit them they seemed so cliche there are no worthy words that convey the deep sadness of your loss and grief. Instead on a personal level I wanted to share with you what my Father answered me when as a young girl I asked the question "Dad" How do you deal with the death of a loving Family Member? I knew one day I would have to address this issue when his time came. His answer was honey death is Natural, it is common and it will happen your acceptance and how you understand the cycle of life & death is very important. To help you do this You must always lovingly remember the person who died and who they were, how they lived their life and how they loved you. They would want you to remember them alive and well and that you will be alright. When you do this they will never be any further away or apart then they are alive safe in your memory and in your heart each and every time you think of them. I could not relate or understand his logic until my Father passed away. The void of my Fathers presence is sadly missed and it continues today. It will be 39 years this year in November since his death. However, the comfort of his words echos loud in my heart and so they help to pass a day into another year. Sylvia, I am deeply sorry for the tremendous loss of your best friend and loving husband. If I can be of assistance to you and in Stephens work I am just a phone call away. Marilyn Delgado one of The Marcel Delgado Family members
Although we never met I felt I knew Stephen so well as we often communicated about various aspects of the history of model stop-motion and of course Ray and his work. Without Stephen I couldn't have compiled A Century of Model Stop-Motion Animation and his subsequent help on other projectors was invaluable. Ray and I often talked about Stephen and how talented he was. Ray admired him very much as did I.Tony Dalton, Ray Harryhausen Biographer
We were so sorry to hear of Steve's passing. We both could hardly believe that such a brilliant, positive man could be taken so early in life. Although he leaves a huge legacy from a life of discovery and art, we know the loss in your life is immeasurable. When two people live together so closely, as do we, happiness emanates from that other person's presence.Bob and Kathy Burns, The Burns Hollywood Collection
Steve was a fine man who did a lot of good in the world with you at his side. We are very sorry for the loss for ourselves but mostly for you as you go forward without your faithful companion. We pray for the Lord's blessings to be with you and want you to know that we stand ready to help in any way we can.Pete and Charlotte Black, Blanding Community Leaders
"Stephen has been among my closest friends and one of the most important people in my life. It was back in about 1970 that we met at a get together for Ray at Forry's house and that day changed my life. He's one the most creative people I've ever know. I miss him very much."Jim Aupperle, Special Effects, San Francisco, California
"Stephen was a gentleman, a true scholar, and an incredible artist. His work had a major impact on me and I will honor his work in any way I can." Dr. Alan Feduccia, Ornithologist, University of North Carolina
"I am so sorry to hear about Steve. It is a terrible loss and I am literally in tears." Paleontologist, Robert De Palma, Florida
"That magnificent Museum is a tribute to all the years you have worked together, sharing your expertise and your love of the field. You have my love and admiration. Thank you again." Harriette Litchfield, New Jersey
"Steve made a very important contribution to the field and he will be remembered." Bob Walters and Tess Kissinger, Museum Artists, Philadelphia
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