“It is advisable to look from the tide pool to the stars and then back to the tide pool again.” – Ed Ricketts and John Steinbeck, Log from the Sea of CortezCoastal biologist David Shonman loved the ephemeral coastal fog and shifting sand dunes of Monterey Bay. His life left a lasting imprint on the local landscape and people. He died peacefully on July 30 while resting in an armchair at home after walking his dog in his Pacific Grove neighborhood. He was 76.During more than 50 years on the Monterey Peninsula, David played a central role in crafting the Carmel Shoreline Management Plan that resulted in the city’s popular Scenic Road walking path, helped spark the fundraising campaign that earned “Sandy the Whale” a permanent home at the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, consulted on the dunes and aviary exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and mentored the Aquarium’s volunteer guides during its early years. As chair of the Friends of the Monterey Institute for Research in Astronomy (MIRA), he arranged a local talk by Luis Alvarez and sought to bring the beauty of the cosmos to the general public.David had a unique gift for mediating compromises and achieving solutions and his quiet “behind the scenes” efforts have enriched our Community. He assisted in bringing to the Museum not only Sandy the Whale but also the first exhibit of Pat Antonio’s amazing fossils, and chaired the Advisory Board while Museum operations were passed to a nonprofit foundation. He was instrumental in brokering the transfer of Point Pinos Lighthouse to the Pacific Grove Heritage Society for oversight and restoration. He headed local projects eradicating invasive plants from our western coastal dunes and replacing them with native species. He led whale watching tours on the Bay and shared the wonder of our natural area with people of all ages; from children in Lyceum tide pooling classes to retirees in the Hidden Valley’s Elderhostel/Road Scholar program. Between the sky and the sea he stopped to smell the flowers too.David had a wide-ranging and curious mind that delighted in everything from juggling to word origins to the artistry of a 4-6-3 doubleplay, the films of Akira Kurosawa and the rhythm of Chick Hearn’s call of Lakers’ games during the Elgin Baylor-Jerry West era. He collected both vintage California lighthouse postcards and banana labels. Conversations with him were deep and long, often over a home-cooked meal, while working in the garden, or during a hike or a stroll on the beach. His love of coastal sand dunes extended upstream to the mountains that were the source of sand. Friends honored his passion by bringing home samples of sand they procured for him as they traveled the world.Born in 1945 in Los Angeles, David grew up in the San Fernando Valley and graduated as a molecular biologist from Cal State Northridge – a career he planned to pursue until a chance course in marine biology changed the path of his life. He moved north to Pacific Grove, earned a master’s degree at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, and never looked back. Between classes and beach volleyball games at the lab, he found his vocation and his home.When he married Naval officer Sue Higgins in 1988, he traveled with her to northern Virginia, where he taught college science courses; to Jacksonville, Florida, where he was active in restoration projects with Friends of the St. Johns River; and to Puerto Rico, where he introduced his son Matthew to kayaking and cultivated his love of the natural world.David’s greatest love was his family: Sue, Matthew, brother-in-law Steve Higgins and niece Samantha Higgins. He cherished the friends in the intentional family he created during his decades in Pacific Grove, including his lifelong bonds with Ken Peterson, Milos Radakovich, Nancy York, and many others.David was preceded in death by his parents, Joseph Shonman and Anita (Wortman ) Shonman; and a sister, Marilyn (Shonman) Eckart. In addition to those above, he is survived by a sister, Lila (Shonman) Finhill, and several nieces and nephews.A celebration of David’s life is planned at a future date. You can make contributions in his memory to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, NPR, or the National Center for Science Education – and think of him as you contemplate the wonder of the universe, from the tide pool to the stars and back again.Please visit https ://www.dignitymemorial.com/obituaries/pacific-grove-ca/david-shonman-10873723 to share memories and photos of David.
Published by Monterey Herald on Aug. 18, 2022.