Local Environmental Titan David Czamanske, Dead at 80

Published : Thursday, January 3, 2019 | 5:52 PM

David Czamanske died December 12, 2018 at the age of 80. Photo courtesy of Gerald Czamanske

“Active,” “dedicated,” “gadfly, “stubborn,” “serious,” “dauntless,” and “complex” are all adjectives used by colleagues to describe environmentalist David Czamanske, who died December 12 at the age of 80.

They were spoken by allies of Czamanske in the environmental movement to which he dedicated a goodly portion of his fruitful life, especially at the local level where he was active in the Pasadena Group, a part of the Sierra Club’s Angeles Chapter.

Ginny Heringer, Pasadena Group chairwoman, said Czamanske joined the Sierra Club while in college and remained dedicated to its causes such as climate change and water issues.

Czamanske wore many hats with the environmental group including chairman of the speakers program and coal conservation, as well as hike leader for what is one of the most active hiking organizations around.

“He was our main fundraiser, which is going to leave a big, big hole in our program,” said Heringer. “He was probably the person most interested in dealing with politics.”

Elizabeth Pomeroy, editor of the Pasadena Group’s newsletter, said she would remember, “how dauntless he was with things that were important to him including conservation matters and making the Sierra Club stronger. He never gave up.”

That quality, coupled with Czamanske’s stubbornness when it came to persuading others about the environment, made him invaluable when it came to policy questions which, Pomeroy said, “he knew the most about.”

She described the attorney as an “interesting mix” of political awareness and passion for nature. “He was not just sitting at a desk writing briefs,” said Pomeroy. “He was out there wherever there was trouble. He would go to see what he could do about it.”

Pasadena Group outings chairman, Don Bremner, evoked Czamanske’s avidity as a hiker. “He’s been a hike leader for many years,” said Bremner. “Of course, he was 80 when he died, so naturally he’d slowed down a bit. He wasn’t tackling 15-mile hikes anymore.”

Bremner considered Czamanske a “gadfly” who kept after those around him to get active in environmental politics; a man who walked the walk by making many appearances before the city council or its committees.

Local environmental activist Christopher Nyerges remembers Czamanske as a “towering figure, both literally and figuratively.”

“His 6’3” stature added to his status when he would boldly chide hikers to pick up their own litter, and to practice camp and trail etiquette,” Nyerges said. “An engaging man, I enjoyed our occasional conversations on both mundane and controversial topics. For his four-score years, he lived his life according to his passion and love of the outdoors. I wish him well on the next phase of his journey.”

Czamanske, who died in his sleep, will be remembered for a variety of skills and for the gifts he left behind.

He developed a series of evening walks around the Arroyo Seco. He fought the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works over its plan to level an 11-acre stand of oaks and sycamores in an Arcadia canyon. And Czamanske lived long enough to see the protracted battle over the 710 Freeway expansion resolved in favor of the environmental cadres that commanded his loyalty for decades.