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National Book Award-winning author Barry Lopez dead at 75

National Book Award-winning author Barry Lopez died Friday at 75. Photo via Barry Lopez/Facebook
National Book Award-winning author Barry Lopez died Friday at 75. Photo via Barry Lopez/Facebook

Dec. 26 (UPI) -- National Book Award-winning author Barry Lopez died Friday after a long struggle with prostate cancer, his family said. He was 75.

Lopez's work encompasses a range of genres and themes, from natural history studies to essays and short story collections.

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Lopez won the 1986 National Book Award for Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape, which drew on almost five years of research and travel in the arctic.

His most recent book, the 500-page Horizon, was released in 2019. The semi-autobiographical collection of essays reflects on the author's travels to more than 70 countries.

"His books are landmarks that define a region, a time, a cause," former Oregon Poet Laureate Kim Stafford, a longtime friend, told Oregonlive. "He also exemplifies a life of devotion to craft and learning, to being humble in the face of wisdom of all kinds."

Lopez lived outside Eugene, Ore., alongside the McKenzie River for decades, but moved in September 2020, when the Holiday Farm fire damaged his home.

In November the author announced he and his wife, author Debra Gwartney, had been living in an apartment in Eugene, and would soon move into a rental home in the city.

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Gwartney told NPR the fire damaged much of the forest around the home, and that Lopez lost decades of notes and correspondence.

"He talked a lot about climate change and how it's so easy to think that it's going to happen to other people and not to you," Gwartney said. "But it happened to us, it happened to him personally. The fire was a blow he never could recover from."

Lopez was born Jan. 6, 1945 in Port Chester, N.Y. When he was three years old, his family relocated to southern California's San Fernando Valley.

He attended the Loyola School in New York City and then the University of Notre Dame, where he earned bachelor's and master's degrees.

He moved to Oregon to pursue graduate work in folklore and journalism at the University of Oregon, settling in Finn Rock in 1970.

Lopez decided to leave academia and wrote 17 books that earned a range of honors from the Guggenheim Fellowship to the John Burroughs Medal and two Pushcart Prizes.

"It's so difficult to be a human being," Lopez told a reporter in 2019. "There are so many reasons to give up. To retreat into cynicism or despair. I hate to see that and I want to do something that makes people feel safe and loved and capable."

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Notable deaths of 2020

Richard Thornburgh
Richard "Dick" Thornburgh, former attorney general of the United States and former governor of Pennsylvania, takes a seat at the witness hearing after U.S. Chief Justice nominee Judge John Roberts testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on September 15, 2005. Thornburgh died on December 31 at age 88. Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI | License Photo

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