Dr. Fred Webster
To his family and his close personal friends, he was “Tic”. To his professional friends and colleagues he was Fred or Dr. Webster. By any name he was known to be a generous, loving, human being with a passion for life and a commitment to excellence.
Dr. Fred Webster received his BA from Swarthmore College in 1967 and his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1972. In the 1980’s he began his ongoing research, testing and design of adobe with the National Science Foundation. His work continued throughout his lifetime with many organizations including the Getty Conservation Institute. Trained as a civil engineer he found his love and passion as a “mud engineer.” That’s not surprising for a man who loved to fish, camp and spend time in nature with his family and friends.
Raised in Tucson, AZ, he fell in love as a teenager with his wife Brendan O’Connor. They had three children: their daughters Alex, and Kendall and their son Dillon. One time they all went on a deep sea sailing adventure from California to Hawaii with some of their best friends. Just one day out on the high seas the mast snapped in a fierce gale. In his calm, cool, and collected way he figured out how to get the mast back into place and lash it securely so it was effective for the rest of the voyage.
Webster brought the same ingenuity to the design and conservation of earthen buildings. “Containment and continuity” is a phrase you could hear him say. He believed in structural integrity. And he was brilliant when it came to solving problems and breathing new life and integrity into damaged adobe buildings.
His research included The Getty Seismic Adobe Project. As a consulting engineer some of the buildings that were strengthened in California include: San Miguel Mission in San Miguel, The Castro Adobe in Watsonville, Royal Presidio Chapel in Monterey, San Luis Rey in Oceanside and the Mission San Antonio de Padua in Jolon, just to name a few. In New Mexico he worked on the San Antonio Church in Questa, The Santo Domingo Trading Post in Santo Domingo, the San Miguel Church in Santa Fe and the Armijo house in Las Cruces. He also worked on the Stanton Monastery in Stanton, Texas.
Fred gave presentations at many conferences including Terra 2012 in Lima, Peru and several Earth USA conferences. He helped write the New Mexico Earthen Buildings Code and was hard at work at the current revisions to the code. He was an active member of the Earthbuilder’s Guild. In fact at a meeting at Cornerstones just prior to the Earth USA 2015 conference, Fred was patched in to the meeting via Skype. Even though he was limited in movement, he was there and actively participated. It was just a few weeks later that he passed.
Fred is missed for his passion, his commitment, his integrity and his genius when it came to earthen building. Not only that, he was a really nice, friendly down to earth kind of guy who cared about people. Fred was always someone you could call and get advice about this or that situation with an adobe structure. Tic: We really miss you.