I met Jack Ainsworth in January 1989. I was 24 and it was the first day of my General Geology class. I had never thought about geology before. I can’t remember ever wondering where rocks came from or how mountains formed, they were just there. Jack changed that. Jack made geology come to life when he lectured. I was fixated on every lecture and took notes in color.
I developed a crush on my professor and as we spent time together in class, in the lab, on field trips, we became very good friends and one day, he married me. Jack is the most intelligent person I ever met and he was a scientist to the core. But he was also a writer and a philosopher. He was loud and he had a wonderful sense of humor. He loved to hunt and fish and our freezer was always filled with venison. He did most of the maintenance on our cars and our home.
10 years ago, Jack lost the ability to speak. He also lost the ability to walk and the use of his hands was limited, but the inability to speak was the devastating. Our children were 7 and 9 the last time they heard their dad’s voice, they don’t remember what it sounded like. His brain was fully functional, Jack was in there, but he couldn’t do anything. It was his worst nightmare; it is everyone’s worst nightmare.
During a conversation with my friend Phyllis, who was also one of his students, she said “Jack changed the way I looked at the world.”
Jack changed the way many people looked at the world.
I look at the world differently now too, nothing is “just there.” When I drive west from Kingman, I look around at all of the jagged volcanic rock and try to imagine the violence that formed it millions of years ago. When I look at the crossbedding in the sandstone cliffs at Zion National Park I think, “you can tell what direction the wind was blowing here 175 million years ago.”
Jack changed my life, even if we hadn’t gotten married and we didn’t have our fabulous daughters, my life would have been changed by him. It was during that first geology class that I remembered that I was smart. I realized that I could take the hard classes and I did. I took General Geology because I was afraid to take the other sciences, but in the end, I took all of them, because of Jack. I am a geologist, because of Jack.
I am a mother because of Jack.
Jack Curtis Ainsworth, 64, died Wednesday, April 12, 2017 in Mesa, Arizona.
Jack Ainsworth was born July 23, 1952 in Berkeley, California to James and Doris Ainsworth.
Jack grew up in Walnut Creek, California. He earned a BS and MS in Geology at the University of California at Berkeley. While working on his dissertation for his PhD, Jack was offered, and accepted, a position as a Geology Professor at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana. He was awarded the 1990 Burlington Northern Faculty Achievement Award from Rocky Mountain College.
Jack did not measure his life by awards and accolades. His feet were rooted in the bedrock of Montana. He was happiest standing in the cold waters of the Stillwater or roaming the Pryor Mountains. He loved to hunt, fish and hike. He was a humorous storyteller who freely shared his adventures of the wilderness with family, friends and students. He respected nature and embraced life.
Jack is survived by his wife Sandra, daughters Jordan and Carsyn, his sisters Susan Parker and Sally Case and his brothers Jim, Bill and Tom Ainsworth.
Jack is preceded in death by his parents James and Doris Ainsworth.
"Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are [his]." ― Norman Maclean