Gerald Kay Kelso
1 October, 1937 – 14 June, 2021
Gerald K. Kelso, Ph.D., beloved father, grandfather, and husband passed away on June 14, 2021 in Lafayette, Colorado. He was born on October 1, 1937 in Newton, Kansas to the late Gerald S. and Doris I. (Ramey) Kelso.
Gerald grew up and attended school in Newton, Kansas. He first knew he wanted to be an archaeologist when he was 12 years old. He marched into the living room of his childhood home and announced it to everyone, but he said, at the time he did not know the difference between an archaeologist and a paleontologist! After graduation from high school, he attended the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, graduating with a B.A. in Anthropology in 1961. He completed a Masters in Anthropology in 1971 at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
Gerald enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1961. After serving for three years, he retired from active duty. Gerald served in the U.S. Naval Reserves from 1965 to 1981, retiring with the rank of Commander.
Gerald married the love of his life, Barbara Kelso, in 1974 after meeting her through mutual friends at an art show in Tucson, where they had both submitted works of art for competition. They were married for 44 years before Barbara’s death in 2018.
Gerald Kelso received his Ph.D. at the University of Arizona in 1976, continuing his pollen research at Arizona’s Laboratory of Paleoenvironmental Studies until 1979, when he became Assistant Professor of Archaeology at Boston University, also teaching at the Center for Materials Research at MIT. While continuing his ties with academia, he left full-time teaching in 1984 to embark on a career in federal service, first with the Northeast Region of the National Park Service in Boston and Lowell, Massachusetts; then with the National Forest Service at the Homochitto National Forest, Mississippi; and finally with the Natural Resource Conservation Service in Phoenix. He retired from federal service in 2013.
Gerald’s passion was the analysis of pollen in archaeological sites. His work made significant additions to our understanding of New World prehistory at the Carn’s Site at Cape Cod National Seashore, Grasshopper Pueblo in Arizona, and Hogup Cave in Utah. He also made important contributions to the interpretation of historic landscapes and the environment at Scottow’s Dock in Boston; the British earthworks at Saratoga National Battlefield, Stillwater, NY; the David Brown and David Fisk Home sites at Minute Man National Historical Park, Concord, MA ; the Turf Fort at Jamestown, VA; the Merchant’s House Museum backlot on Manhattan Island, New York; Fort Necessity National Battlefield in Farmington, PA; and the Boott Mills Boardinghouse and Kirk Street Agents’ House at Lowell National Historic Park, Lowell, MA. He was an important part of the 17th Century Lead Coffins Project at Historic Saint Mary’s City, completing analysis of pollen samples from the coffins and providing information on the historic landscape of the property.
Gerald wrote about the results of his research throughout his career, with publications in American Antiquity, Journal of Archaeological Science, Historical Archaeology, Journal of Field Archaeology, Northeast Historical Archaeology, North American Archaeologist, Index of Texas Archaeology, and the Landscape Journal. In addition to his research contributions, he has been a friend, inspiration, and mentor to historians, anthropologists, archaeologists, cultural resource managers, palynologists, and cultural landscape professionals throughout the world.
Gerald was an avid wood carver from a very young age and an artist like his wife Barbara. He carved everything from wooden ladles that Barbara would sell with her pottery in her Tucson gallery to elaborate masks, birds, deer skulls, and other animals. Like his wife, he was extraordinarily gifted but would often say he just carved away the extra wood to find what was already there. He also enjoyed working in his yard and would every year have a bountiful vegetable garden in every state he had ever lived, from Kansas to Massachusetts to Arizona. He enjoyed a periodic trip to the range where he would live out his dream of being a buffalo hunter.
Gerald is lovingly remembered by his son Andrew, daughters Angela (Brett) Keniston and Anna (Gareth) Smith, grandchildren William, Alexys, Owen, Joyelle, Ellie, Os, and Sebastian, as well as many dear nieces, nephews, friends, and colleagues. In addition to his parents, Gerald was preceded in death by his beloved wife Barbara, sister Karen, and brother Kent.
A Celebration of Life for both Gerald and Barbara will be held on Saturday, June 26th at 5 pm at The New Church of Boulder Valley, 1370 Forest Park Cir, Lafayette, CO 80026. Memorial contributions may be made to Archeology Southwest at https://www.archaeologysouthwest.org/donate/
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Gerald Kay Kelso
29 June 2021
As one of the many students fortunate enough to have taken Gerald's Archaeological Conservation class at Boston University, I want to offer my condolences to his family. Prof. Kelso was a terrific (and hilarious!) educator and colleague. I have many fond memories of him in his lab at BU and exchanging emails with him in more recent years. Please know how highly regarded Gerald was by his former students and that he lives on in the knowledge and generosity of spirit he shared with us.
21 June 2021
I had the privilege of working with Gerald at the NPS. As you know he was a warm, caring, and dedicated person. One of my memories is he carved a hair pin (?) for me. I had long hair at the time, but not that long. The hair pin was more than 10 inches in length, and when he gave it to me, he realized it was out of proportion, and offered to make me a new one. I couldn’t bear to part with it. At the time, I didn't know he was prescient. As a result of shoulder issues, I've discovered it’s really a fancy back scratcher.
20 June 2021
The Buckley AFB military Retiree Activities Office (RAO) would like to offer our sincere condolences and our gratitude for CDR Kelso's service to our country in the Navy. If you would like help with any matters related to casualty assistance, Defense Finance & Accounting Service, Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP), Veterans Affairs (VA), etc. you can contact our office on Buckley AFB at 720-847-6693. The RAO is staffed by volunteers, all military retirees themselves, and our sole purpose is to provide assistance to any military retirees and surviving spouses/family members with anything related to their military service and/or benefits, in particular during difficult times such as this. We are deeply sorry for your loss.
Lt Col, USAF, Ret
Director, Buckley SFB RAO
19 June 2021
Dear Kelso Family- I was a student of Gerald's when he taught at MIT's lab for archaeological materials around 1980. The year focused on plant remains and he taught us all about pollen analysis. It was fascinating to view the grains under the microscope and to learn how the study of pollen could inform our understanding of past climates, natural resources and nutrition. Whenever I would reach out to Gerald, for advice or information, he would always respond; he was a wonderful teacher. It's been a long time since I have been active in archaeology, but I will always remember his down-to-earth, warm and friendly nature.
Yours, sincerely, Miriam
18 June 2021
I met Gerald when I was a graduate student at Boston University. The Kelsoliferous One was so very kind to me and let me hide out in his pollen lab and pour my heart out to him. I had the very great pleasure of working with him at the National Park Service. I spent hours in his office/lab talking to him...and waking him up when he fell asleep counting pollen at the microscope. I still remember him standing beside me on Coast Guard Beach explaining to ignorant me what the stratigraphy on the site was all about. It was December, I was freezing and only caught about half of what he said. Kelso was in his element, teaching, and completely impervious to the cold. He changed my view of stratigraphy, sites, and archaeology. When I first moved to Phoenix, Gerald and I would meet for breakfast on Sunday mornings, talk about old times and argue politics and archaeology.
18 June 2021
"Dad" was one of a kind--- from his pollen to his mustache! He made for a fantastic transport service, conversation partner, and trophy maker. Barbara and Gerald were quite the pair and I loved getting to know them as "parents" in Mississippi and as friends in Arizona.
18 June 2021
I was saddened to hear about Gerald's passing. I remember him well, as one of my professors in 1980 at the Center for Materials Research in Archaeology & Ethnology at MIT, the class was Biological Materials in Prehistory. He was a fine teacher.
Gerald collected soil samples to analyze where I was part of the excavation team at the Carns site at Coast Guard Beach, part of the Cape Cod National Seashore and also at the Elizabeth Cady Stanton House in Women's Rights Nation Park in Seneca Falls, New York. I was honored when he asked me to analyze archaeobotanical samples from the Dimmick farm's barn on Cape Cod which resulted in an article in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
We kept in touch over the years. The last time we corresponded was when he moved to Colorado to be near his children after Barbara's death. He told me that I had inspired him to open his boxes and finish some of his work. He will be missed.
17 June 2021
Sorry I think I forgot to add that the picture I sent along is of Gerald at Jamestown in Virginia. We worked there between 1993 and 1995.
17 June 2021
I new and worked closely with Gerald between 1983 and 1987 as part of the National Park Service office in Boston and then on and off for the rest of his career. He and I spent so many hours walking and talking around the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston because he could no longer smoke is beloved pipe indoors. I was fortunate enough to publish a lot with Gerald and the closeness that process involves. He was a great story teller about everyone from his grandfather to his children who he talked about all of the time. I have to admit that I loved the stories when he found himself not quite able to reconcile his world view and that of his children, but it was that loving look of a parent. He also loved his wife who he talked about often. But mainly we talked about pollen analysis and plants growing in strange urban places. There aren't many folks who can talk about such things but we did ALL THE TIME. I will look back on those conversations with new appreciation. I have included a picture of us collecting samples for environmental analysis and it is quite a crowd here. Included in the photo are me in the black shirt, Dominic Powlesland well known English archaeologist and the famous Edward Harris of the Harris Matrix, one of the mainstays of archaeological field work for the past 40 years. I will your father very much - he was a good friend and colleague.