Wed, Aug. 12

Obituary: I.W. Fobair

I.W. “Bill” Fobair, 92, of Cottonwood, Arizona, passed away on Feb. 16, 2018. He was born on the Niobrara Ranch, homesteaded by his grandfather in 1890, 7 miles southwest of Butte.

By the time Bill reached the eighth grade, he was determined to become a Soil and Water Conservationist, based on the severe rill and gully erosion he witnessed in rural Boyd County.

Bill enlisted in the U.S. Navy (1943-1947) and served again during the Korean War (1951-1953). In between that service, he received his BSc., in Agriculture, University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He was a charter member of one of the first College Student Chapters of the Soil Conservation Society of America.

Bill married Joyce A. Pellew in 1949, a knowledgeable young lady from New Zealand. By September 1953, when Bill again received his second discharge from the Navy, Joyce expressed a desire to visit her family. Bill had never met her family, so they determined it best to make an extended trip to New Zealand before starting his career in the Soil Conservation Service. Their youngest son, Roger, was nine months old at the time.

They made the trip aboard the HMS Oronsay, with stops in Hawaii and Fiji, arriving in New Zealand in December 1953. Bill pursued post-graduate studies at the Canterbury Agricultural College, in Lincoln, South Island, New Zealand.

Prof. McCaskill was his councilor, whom was acquainted with the SCS program in the U.S. and a friend of “Bones” Norton. Later Don Williams, upon request by the New Zealand government, spent six weeks in developing his recommendations for carrying out their Soil and Water Conservation program. Bill still has a copy of his report.

Bill took out a patent pending for a folding, rolling shopping basket, had 1,000 made, sold them after graduation in 1954 on a six-week tour of New Zealand. The proceeds paid for their expenses in New Zealand and trip back to the States in 1955.

Bill started his career with SCS at North Platte, Nebraska, in May 1955. He was assigned to the Alma, Nebraska, work unit in late 1956, after being interviewed by each of the five Harlan County SWCD supervisors, perhaps not a normal procedure but one resulting in mutual respect and opportunities.

Bill Richards, Chairman, was Vice-President of the National Association of Conservation Districts at the time and soon became President. Dempsey McNeil, vice-chairman, was chairman of the Nebraska Soil and Water Conservation Commission and LaSalle Whitehead, Secretary, was Secretary-Treasurer for the Nebraska Irrigators Association.

Bill later served as Area Conservationist in Flint, Michigan, Resource Conservation and Development Coordinator in the Panhandle of Nebraska and as Seed Production Specialist, for the small livestock industry, Tunis, Tunisia. Bill retired in 1981 with 33 years of service including seven years with the U.S. Navy.

From 1982 to 1986 he was under contract with Utah State University and Louis Berger International to implement a soil and water conservation program for the Central Rangelands Development project in Somalia. The program included: sand dune stabilization in 11 villages, establishment of three regional nurseries, well rehabilitation and construction of dams and dugouts. Upon completion of the Somalia tour, the Fobairs lived in Sedona for 13 years, then moved to Cottonwood, Arizona, in 1998.

Bill and Joyce have traveled to 39 foreign countries, all states in the U.S. except North Dakota, several provinces in Canada, Alaska and Mexico. Bill traces his family history to Montreal and enjoys genealogy and more recently, landscape design and consultation.

They celebrated their 67th wedding anniversary July 5, 2016.

Their oldest son, Roger, mechanical engineer, works for John Deere at corporate headquarters, Moline, Illinois, and their youngest son, Ralph is Technical Education Director, Mingus Union High School in Cottonwood. Bill and Joyce have three grandchildren.

Bill feels he owes his success and an enjoyable career to hard work and the shared experiences of many, many others with similar goals he brushed paths with along the way.

An online guestbook is available to sign at

Information provided by survivors.

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