George Ellison, long-time naturalist, author, Citizen Times columnist, dies at 81

George Ellison, right, seen here with his wife, Elizabeth, died Feb. 19 at age 81. He was a longtime writer of the "Nature Journal," a weekly column in the Citizen Times.

These weekly columns were accompanied by Elizabeth’s stunning watercolor artwork.

From George:Nature Journal: Early-blooming hepaticas are harbingers of spring

George's Nature Journal:Late winter a great time to spot native orchid species

“He was tough,” Quintin Ellison said of her father. “But life had just been kind of been getting harder and he couldn't type, you know, he couldn’t work, and that's what he lived for – it was writing. He was proud of his relationship with the Asheville Citizen Times. And that was a long relationship.”

Ellison was writing as long as he could. His last "Nature Journal" column was published Feb. 4, about hepatica. "But to my way of thinking, year in and year out, hepatica is the earliest of the truly showy woodland wildflowers," he wrote.

Quintin Ellison, herself a former reporter with the Citizen Times, said she believed her father started working as a correspondent for the paper, writing and taking photos, even before the Nature Journal gig, starting back in the 1980s.

The Rainbow Springs wetland is located just south of U.S. 74 in the headwaters of the Nantahala River

Thomas Wolfe award:George Ellison, Janet McCue win 2019 Thomas Wolfe award for Horace Kephart biography

It is a 500-page, seminal biography on one of the most famed naturalists in WNC history. It was edited by Frances Figart and published by Great Smoky Mountains Association.

George Robert Ellison II was born on Dec. 15, 1941, in Danville, Virginia, the son of Ruth and George Robert "GR" Ellison, who was killed in World War II, Quintin Ellison wrote on her Facebook page.

More:Nature Journal: Squirrell's legacy as a superior stonemason and artisan lives on

George's Nature Journal:In WNC, you're most likely to see the Appalachian cottontail rabbit

He taught at Mississippi State University in Starkville. In the early 1970s, we moved to Bryson City.

He loved these mountains and its flora and fauna. He and my mother last year placed into conservation our family property on lower Lands Creek in Swain County.”

He and Elizabeth had three children, George Robert Ellison III, Milissa Ellison Dewey and Quintin, six grandchildren – George Robert Ellison IV (George Ellison), Daisy Ellison, Jonathan Reed, Elizabeth Liz Reed and Will Murphree – and great-grandchildren.

“In lieu of a memorial service, my mother asks that you consider planting a wildflower garden and/or supporting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Family members will build a small cairn in his memory at home in Bryson City.”

Karen Chávez is Interim Executive Editor for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Tips, comments, questions? Call 828-236-8980, email, or follow on Twitter @KarenChavezACT. Please support this type of journalism with a subscription to the Citizen Times at