Obituary – David W. Racusen

David W. Racusen
David W. Racusen

David W. Racusen died at the Vermont Medical Center on Sept. 28, 2019, after a short illness. David was a retired iochemist and Department Chair at the University of Vermont who studied plant storage proteins for nearly 40 years, and was the first to isolate and characterize the major storage protein of potatoes, patatin. After receiving an undergraduate degree in chemistry at Hobart College in 1947, he completed his doctoral degree at Iowa State University and was a postdoctoral fellow at Cal Tech. In the mid-1950s, he took his first position at the Shell Oil Agricultural facility in Modesto, Calif. and carried out some of the foundational research on sugar and protein metabolism during photosynthesis in green beans. Yearning to return to an academic environment, in 1960 he became a professor of agricultural biochemistry at the University of Vermont. In this position, he helped develop and expand this department, serving ultimately as its chair for over 10 years, before retiring in 1990.

David was also an accomplished musician, playing French horn in both the Vermont Symphony and Vermont Philharmonic, as well as in local ensembles. Self-taught on the recorder and violin, he produced a variety of musical compositions ranging from solo to chamber music. He also composed a symphonic piece that was performed by the Vermont Symphony in 1964.

David William Racusen was born in Chicago and was educated in the Chicago public schools. He maintained a lifelong pride in being a native Chicagoan and was especially fond of their public library. During World War II, he served with the Army as part of an amphibious tank crew, and was involved with the invasions of the Philippines and Okinawa. Wounded in the Okinawa action, he received the Purple Heart and was discharged near the end of the war. During his senior year in college he met and married Phyllis Fisher, starting a family that ultimately grew to three children. Phyllis died unexpectedly in 1966 and David married Barbara Park Bausch in 1969, who also predeceased him in 1994. David lived for over 40 years at a lake-side residence overlooking Lake Champlain and never tired of enjoying its seasonal beauty, as well as the warm weather opportunities for a quiet swim.

David is survived by his son Richard Racusen and his wife Lorraine, who reside in Maryland, and their sons Christopher and Darren, who reside in the San Francisco area. David is also survived by his daughter Ann Desiglioli from Middletown, N.Y., and her son Tim Takagi, who, happily, inherited David’s passion for the horn.

A remembrance is being planned for early summer 2020 in Shelburne.

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