Funeral services are scheduled for 10:00 A.M. Monday, November 26, at Terpening & Son Chapel for Dr. Alvis Lee Lisenbee of Rapid City, South Dakota.
Dr. Lisenbee, 77, died November 16, 2018 at Rapid City Regional Hospice House, of complications following surgery.
David Grosnick will officiate at the services with burial 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 at Terpening & Son Mortuary from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. on Monday, November 26.
Alvis Lee Lisenbee was born December 3, 1940, at 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 of a mile away.
When Alvis was seven, his family moved to Artesia, New Mexico, where he grew up. He read books about faraway places and dreamed 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 BS and MS 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 an emeritus professor 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 Alvis 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 five-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; his stepchildren: Dana Richart, Jason Armstrong, Ingrid (Jason) Reuter, Lisa (Brian) Millard, Tom (Erica) Christopherson, Nichol (Nate) Walla, and Orrin (Alicia) Johnson; his 18 grandchildren; his brothers, sister, and son of the heart: Peyton (Linda) Yates, Nuri (Elvan) Uzunlar and their children, Elsa Jimenez, Carolina Jimenez, and Juan (Peggy) Jimenez 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.