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F. Lee Motz (June 14, 1934-April 17, 2002)

by Glenn Farris

Courtesy of the Society for California Archaeology Newsletter, June 2002   
[Society for California Archaeology]

Lee Motz, an Associate State Archaeologist with the Cultural Resource Division, California Department of Parks and Recreation, died on April 17, 2002. He had been suffering from terminal cancer, but maintained his typical bravura right to the end, inquiring about a favored project at Angel Island that he still wanted to do.

Lee was originally from Ohio and came to California with the U.S. Air Force. He joined the Department of Parks and Recreation following an early medical retirement from the Air Force resulting from a back injury. He often joked about having hurt himself by falling our of a plane. The fact that the plane was on the ground didn't lessen the hardness of the tarmac when he slipped from a large military aircraft while performing maintenance work. The Air Force's loss was our gain when, after getting his B.A. in Anthropology from Sacramento State University, he came to work for State Parks in 1981. Lee was a hard worker and meticulous in his field work and report writing. Organization and neatness were important to Lee and put many of us to shame. Due to a particular interest in historical trade beads, Lee developed a reputation as an expert in this type of artifact and published several articles in professional journals. He also developed considerable expertise in analyzing and stabilizing historic structures. He showed a wonderful practical knowledge of construction and was endlessly fascinated by his discoveries of the archaeological evidence of how things went together.

Though he worked in many parts of the state over the course of his career, he became a specialist in the Santa Cruz-Monterey area. One of his early projects was at the Cooper-Molera Adobe in Monterey where he did extensive excavation resulting in the discovery of a number of trash pits from the early to late 19th century that produced the Cooper-Molera collection. In the later 1980s and 1990s Lee worked on numerous historic structures including the First Brick House, the Whaling Station and the Pacific House in Monterey; the John Rogers Cooper cabin at Andrew Molera State Park and the Balcoff Adobe at Wilder Ranch State Park. He also directed many other project, particularly at Ano Nuevo State Park and Wilder Ranch State Park.

Lee generally preferred to work alone or with a small team, but he will be especially fondly remembered for his work with various docent groups and other volunteers as well as CCC, NCCC, and Conservation Corps crews. He often sported hats or t-shirts given him by appreciative convict crews that proclaimed him an honorary prisoner. A big part of his appeal was his unflagging sense of humor, often wry with himself as the butt of many of his jokes. When working simultaneously on the First Brick House and the Whaling Station in Monterey, he would refer to them in combination as "the First Brick Whale." After retiring from the department he came back as a Retired Annuitant but referred to himself as a "Retarded Irritant."

Although he often seemed a workaholic on the job, he found time for his family of which he was very proud. Lee's wife, Kathleen Whalen, and their three sons, Rob and Eric Motz and Pat Whalen were always very much on his mind and he frequently mentioned the many accomplishments of each of them as they occurred.

Lee will be sorely missed by his colleagues and friends throughout the Department and the archaeological community. Our only consolation is that he is now out of pain. (Reports and publications by Lee Motz are contained in the SCA Newsletter, Vol. 36, No. 2, June 2002.)

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