MADISON - Gene R. DeFoliart, age 87, of Madison completed his life and passed away peacefully, at home, on January 3, 2013. Born on June 23, 1925 in Stillwater, Oklahoma, he was the son of Jess and Ruby (King) DeFoliart. Raised in Arkansas, Gene spent his childhood chasing butterflies through the foothills of the Ozarks, which led to a lifetime of work he loved in entomology. He studied at Oklahoma State University until World War II called him to serve his nation. He served two years in the Navy, completing Naval Aviator flight training in 1945. Returning to OSU, he completed his B.S. before moving to Ithaca, New York, where he received a PhD in entomology, from Cornell University in 1951. It was here that he met Louise Ball, his college sweetheart and they were married in 1950.
The draw of the West took Gene and Lou to his first job as a professor at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, where he stayed for eight years. Although hesitant to leave, he accepted a position as associate professor of entomology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1959. It was a change that proved positive in many ways, as they came to love Madison and all the community had to offer.
He became a full professor in 1966 and twice served as Chair of the Department, from 1968 to 1976 and from 1982 to 1983. He dedicated his career to the field of medical and veterinary entomology, and focused the last 25 years on the vector transmission biology of mosquito-borne arboviruses, with emphasis on La Crosse encephalitis virus. Under his direction, graduate students earned 10 Master's degrees and 24 PhDs.
Beginning in 1978, he conducted research and developed an educational outreach program on the use of insects as a global food resource. As part of this work, in 1988 he founded and served as editor for the first eight years of The Food Insects Newsletter. The publication addresses nutritional, economic and environmental implications of insects as traditional foods in many developing countries. During his 32 years on the active faculty at UW, Gene served on the Executive Committee, Faculty Biological Division (1979-1982); as member of the National Institutes of Health Study Section on Tropical Medicine and Parasitology (1975-1979); and periodically as a grant consultant or in other capacities for the National Communicable Disease Center, Atlanta, Georgia, the Canada Department of Health and National Welfare, the National Geographic and others. He served in 1971-72 as Chairman of the Entomological Society of America's (ESA) Section of Medical and Veterinary Entomology.
As a result of his work in the world of insects, he became the third recipient of the Award of Merit presented by the North Central States Branch of the ESA in 1976. In 1998, he was awarded the Hoogstraal Medal by the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene for outstanding achievement in medical entomology.
Raising awareness of insect as a global food source became his passion and he continued his work in this area long after his retirement in July 1991. Relative to insects as food, he filled many speaking engagements on the topic of insects as food, including the speech "Insects are Food: Where has the Western World Been?" that he gave as banquet speaker for the 100th Anniversary Celebration of the New York Entomological Society at the Explorers Club, New York City, in 1992. A symposium honoring his work on insects as a global food resource was held in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 2003; and as part of the national meeting of the Entomological Society of America. In 2010, another symposium honoring Gene's work was held at the National ESA meeting in San Diego.
Gene was a long-time member of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Madison, where he served as both Deacon and Elder. He was a loving father, who challenged his children to think independently, was always there with unfailing support and delighted in sharing his butterfly collection with children of all ages. Survivors include a son, David, (Col., U.S. Air Force, ret.) (Laura) DeFoliart, two daughters, Sharon DeFoliart (David Jansen) of Falmouth, Maine; Linda DeFoliart (David McGuire) of Fairbanks, Alaska; four grandchildren, Michelle (Brett) Coakley, Steven DeFoliart, Cortney Jansen (Brian Kim), and Hannah Jansen (special friend Bryan Schneider); a sister, Jessa Scott of Rogers, Arkansas as well as several nieces and nephews. Gene was preceded in death by Lou in 1998, his beloved wife of 48 years.
After Lou's death, Gene was blessed to have many "angels" in his life. The family is forever grateful for the love and kindness of these remarkable friends. Gene will be remembered for his compassion, generosity towards those who were less fortunate, and sense of humor, all of which he maintained until the very end.
A Celebration of Life will be held at Covenant Presbyterian Church, 326 S. Segoe Road, Madison, Wisconsin, on Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 11:00 A.M., followed by a reception. A visitation will be held at 10:00 A.M. until the service. A private burial will be held at Sunset Memorial Gardens.
In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made to the Louise B. DeFoliart Endowed Scholarship fund. Checks may be made payable to University League Incorporation, PO Box 5064, Madison, Wisconsin, 53705.
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