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Dr. Alvis Lisenbee

Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 26, at Terpening & Son Chapel for Dr. Alvis Lee Lisenbee of Rapid City, S.D.

Lisenbee, 77, passed away Friday, Nov. 16, 2018, at Rapid City Regional Hospice House of complications following surgery.

David Grousnick will officiate the services, with interment to follow at Woodbine Cemetery. Pallbearers will be Juan Jimenez, Carolina Jimenez, Gage Jimenez, Danny Knorr, Harvey Yates, Roby Zumwalt, Richard Yates and Peyton Yates.

Visitation will be held from 9-10 a.m. Monday at Terpening & Son Mortuary.

Alvis was born Dec. 3, 1940, in Lamesa, Texas, to Alvis and Geneva (Hancock) Lisenbee. His interest in exploring the outside world began early, when, as a toddler, he terrified his parents by taking a solo cross-country hike to visit the neighbors a quarter-mile away.

When Alvis was 7, his family moved to Artesia, where he grew up. He read books about faraway places and dreamt of visiting them. He and his parents enjoyed hunting arrowheads in the sand dunes near the Pecos River, and as a teenager, he and a group of close friends – most of whom, like Alvis, became Eagle Scouts – roamed the countryside in his little red Jeep.

Alvis graduated from Artesia High School in 1959 and earned Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in geology from the University of New Mexico.

In 1968, he married Helen Virginia Davis, becoming a stepfather to her children, Dana and Jason Armstrong. The day after the wedding, the newlyweds and 11-year-old Jason departed for Turkey, where Alvis began his doctoral research. For six months, they lived in a rural village with few modern conveniences. It was the first of many visits to Turkey for Alvis, including a year there as a Fulbright exchange professor.

Alvis earned his PhD in geology from Penn State in 1972. That same year, he began teaching structural geology at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City. His career there would span 46 years. He loved both teaching and field geology, as well as the opportunities his work gave him to explore new places around the world. After “retiring” in 2005 as a professor emeritus, he continued teaching field courses, especially in the five-week field camp he and Dr. Nuri Uzunlar established in rural Turkey. At this camp in June 2018, Alvis celebrated the 50th anniversary of his first visit to the land he considered his second country.

Alvis and Virginia divorced in 1988. In 2004, as he told the story, “a piano showed up on my doorstep,” along with its owner, Kathleen Christopherson. This relationship brought him five more stepchildren and, eventually, a herd of grandchildren, who gave him new experiences like rocking a baby to sleep and showing 5-year-olds how to build fires.

Alvis was a traveler, an explorer, and a lifelong learner. He was a storyteller whose experiences gave him many adventures to share. He also had the rarer gift of conversation, being a listener who was interested in others and encouraged them to tell their stories. Most of all, Alvis was a teacher, in and out of the classroom. To him, geology meant reading the fascinating stories of the earth as revealed by its rocks. He delighted in and was skilled at explaining those stories in clear terms understandable to both scientists and non-scientists. He touched the lives of many students in lasting ways, and numbers of them became close, lifelong friends.

For a man with no biological children, Alvis was blessed with a large and loving family, leaving many survivors who will miss him deeply. These include his beloved partner, Kathleen Christopherson; stepchildren Dana Richart, Jason Armstrong, Ingrid Reuter and husband Jason, Lisa Millard and husband Brian, Tom Christopherson and wife Erica, Nichol Walla and husband Nate, and Orrin Johnson and wife Alicia; 18 grandchildren; his brothers, sister, and son of the heart Peyton Yates and wife Linda, Nuri Uzunlar and wife Elvan and their children, Elsa Jimenez, Carolina Jimenez, and Juan Jimenez and wife Peggy and their children, and Umit Yildiz; Kathleen’s extended family; and a circle of close and loving friends.

Alvis’s passion for learning and adventure has now taken him on one last journey to explore the unknown. Those of us who mourn his loss know that, to him, heaven must be a beautiful landscape graced with rocks, mountains, and opportunities for discovery.

Arrangements are under the direction of Terpening & Son Mortuary. Condolences may be expressed online at www.artesiafunerals.com.