Dr. Francis Eugene Hester

Dr. Francis Eugene Hester

Raleigh, NC

Dr. F. Eugene Hester (92) passed away peacefully at his home on Monday, January 15, 2024. Dr. Hester is survived by his wife Katherine Hester of 68 years.
F. Eugene Hester, the son of the late Dr. Joseph Robert Hester and Susie Finch Hester, was born July 7, 1931 in Wendell, N. C. He attended Wendell Elementary and High Schools, Wake Forest University, N.C. State University (B.S. 1954; MS 1956) and Auburn University (Ph.D 1959). In 1955 he married Katherine Sherron of Wendell.
In 1959 he joined the Zoology faculty at N.C. State University. In 1963 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service established a Cooperative Research Unit there and Dr. Hester was selected as its first leader. In this position he taught zoology, fish and wildlife courses, and advised students. He conducted fishery and waterfowl research and directed the research programs for degrees of graduate students.
Dr. Hester was widely recognized as an outstanding research administrator, and in 1971 was promoted to Director of Research and later Deputy Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington, D.C. He also was Acting Director of the Service twice for extended periods while political appointees were selected and confirmed.
In 1987 he was named Associate Director of the National Park Service, and later was Deputy Director of the National Biological Service. He received the Interior Department’s highest award, the Distinguished Service Award, and was awarded the Senior Executive Service rank of Distinguished Executive presented by President Reagan at the White House, and the Meritorious Executive Rank by President Clinton. He also twice received the Interior Department’s EEO award.
Dr. Hester retired from the Interior Department in 1996 after 33 years of service. He subsequently was a consultant to several Washington-based organizations. He was an accomplished writer and photographer where he combined his knowledge of wildlife resources and photography. His photographs appeared in LIFE, NATIONAL WILDLIFE, FIELD AND STREAM, SPORTS AFIELD, WILDLIFE IN NORTH CAROLINA, VIRGINIA WILDLIFE, DUCKS UNLIMITED, and more than fifty other magazines.
In 2015 he was inducted into the North Carolina Wildlife Federation Conservation Hall of Fame for his work in natural resources and was twice recognized as an outstanding alumnus for his accomplishments by NC State University.
Through his research and management studies, he became nationally known as an authority on wood ducks and co-authored with Jack Dermid the book THE WORLD OF THE WOOD DUCK, plus several magazine articles. He also authored two additional books: WOOD DUCK ADVENTURES, and a children’s book called MY FRIEND HOOTIE. The award winning Hootie book tells of his relationship with a wild barred owl that lasted more than ten years in which he and the owl trained each other. The owl finds him in the swamp and comes for a fish thrown to her. Dr. Hester has taken over 300 adults and children to visit Hootie in the swamp. He is also known for inventing the Hester-Dendy water sampling device now used by several states to determine water quality.
After retiring from the Interior Department in Washington, D.C. he and his wife Katherine remained in Northern Virginia and later moved to Wendell, North Carolina.
In addition to his wife, Dr. Hester is survived by his sons, Thomas Robert Hester (Crystal) of Denver, NC., and Jason F. Hester (Donna) of Bracey, VA; five grandchildren, Heather Baczynski (Kevin), Alyssa Hopkins (Matthew), Thomas Jason Hester, Taylor Allen, and Chelsea Odham (Cory); two great grandsons Noah and Cole Odham, and one great grandson (Baczynski) due June 2024. He was preceded in death by his parents, his brothers and sisters, as well as his son Gene Hester III.
His funeral will be at the Wendell Baptist Church on Saturday, January 20, 2024. Visitation will be held at 10:00 a.m. with service immediately following at 11:00 a.m. A graveside service will be held for family members only. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to his endowment at NC State University (NC State Natural Resources Foundation, Inc. NCSU Campus Box 8010, Raleigh, NC 27695. Note on memo line (for F. Eugene Hester Endowment).


  • Steve Knell Posted January 18, 2024 7:54 pm

    Dr.. Hester was a wonderful teacher and friend to me. I’ll always cherish our times together. I’ve memorized some of the many jokes he taught me. Lots of laughs and great times together. I fished with Gene for many years before we both realized that he was a friend of my father. They worked together for many years before I met Gene. My family sends our deepest condolences to all of the Hester family. He was a great human being and I’ll miss him very much..

  • Bill Lea Posted January 19, 2024 12:33 pm

    Gene was incredibly kind to me over the years. As a talented photographer and author and somebody who held high positions with the government, Gene always remained a humble man. You could always see the kindness in his eyes and smile. I will miss you, Gene. My thoughts and prayers are with you, Katherine, especially during this very difficult time. With Love, Bill & Klari

  • rekli.com Posted January 20, 2024 10:05 am

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  • R. Wilson Laney Posted January 20, 2024 6:41 pm

    Katherine and family, I am so very sorry to learn of Gene’s passing. I was privileged to have him as a mentor as an undergraduate at NCSU during the summer of 1969, and again when I returned for grad school in 1970. We maintained contact through the years and after his retirement both worked with the Wake County Open Space and Parks program. He was a kind, generous and talented professional and a valued friend and colleague and will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

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