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Dr. Arthur Alton Bickford September 23, 1936 - July 29, 2023

Date of Service

August 19, 2023

Dr. Arthur Alton Bickford of Turlock, CA, passed away Saturday, July 29th, leaving his family, friends, and community to cherish the memories of his long and productive life.

Art was born and raised in northern Vermont. He was the youngest male of ten children. Growing up on the family dairy farm, he learned all the valuable lessons that come with that type of life. The family had maple trees on their land, and Art observed some of the finer points of “sugaring” from his dad. Art loved maple syrup, and he shared that love with friends and family his whole life. Of course, there were incentives to staying on the family farm, but he had a passion for learning, and when he graduated from high school, he set his sights on the rigorous path of higher education.

He attended the University of Vermont and the University of Pennsylvania where he received his VMD in 1960. He pursued graduate study in veterinary pathology at the University of Vermont, Colorado State University and Purdue University where he received M.S and PhD degrees in 1964 and 1966 respectively. It was around this time when Art met Peg, his wife of more than sixty one years. Their family quickly grew to five, with the addition of three beloved daughters, Carolyn, Patty and Andrea. Art was a loving father and husband, and with Peg, they set the foundations for a close knit, happy, healthy and successful family. Everything was in place for the next phase of his career.

Art served in faculty positions at Purdue University, the University of Missouri, Columbia, and the University of California, Davis. Prior to his retirement in 2001, he served as Chief of the Turlock Laboratory, Interim Chief of the Fresno Laboratory and Associate Director of the Laboratory System.

Throughout his time at the lab, Art was always thoughtful of those who were coming up in the field, and welcomed the opportunity to mentor those building their own careers. But even then, he continued to work on his own contributions, joining editorial boards for avian and poultry journals, staying active in professional organizations like the American Veterinary Medical Association, The Western Poultry Disease Conference (President 1979), the American Association of Avian Pathologists (President 1983), the Western Veterinary Conference (President 2000), and the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (Secretary/Treasurer 1997-2001). Art was appropriately recognized throughout his 50 plus year career with accolades like the CA Bottorff Award from the AAAP in 1995 and the E.P.Pope Award from the AAVLD in 2001.

Art’s impact on the veterinary world was significant, but he still found time to nurture a life outside his work. Art served his community through the good works of organizations like the Optimists, Kiwanis, and Rotary. After experiencing some health issues, he built a lasting camaraderie and friendship with his fellow cardiac rehabilitation patients. They eventually turned their rehab activities into ongoing breakfast get togethers. His caring and concern for animals turned to outright love when it came to the family pets, which included both canine and feline persuasions. And as the family grew, Art and Peg travelled to see them. Art could be found joining pretend tea parties, wearing silly hats, sharing his favorite desserts, and generally connecting with his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren in the most meaningful ways. His wit, his humor, and his kindness were indelibly felt by all of them. One of the most memorable trips was an Alaskan cruise where Art and Peg’s 50th wedding anniversary was celebrated. He often talked about how happy he was that his whole family was able to join.

Art recently got word that the future UC Davis, California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory Turlock Branch would be dedicated and named “Arthur A. Bickford-Bruce R. Charlton Turlock Branch Laboratory”. He was able to attend a site ceremony and spoke briefly to those in attendance. The family could think of no better way to honor not just an exemplary career, but the extraordinary man who forged it. Not long after that occasion, Art’s last day with us found him at home, comfortable, with his daughter Andrea beside him.

Art was preceded in death by his parents, Robert Lee and Evangeline Tyler Bickford. Also preceded by his brothers Robert, Glendon, Dan, Merlin, and sister June. And last, preceded by his wife Margaret (Peggy) Nash Bickford, and his oldest daughter, Carolyn Frances Bickford Bellanca. Art is survived by his brother Elwood Bickford, and sisters Evangeline Wood and Betty Morel; daughters Patricia Abele and Andrea Dothage; son-in-laws Keith Dothage, Shaun Whitaker, and Michael Bellanca; grandson-in-law Nolen Jones; grandchildren Alexandra Jones, Matthew Bellanca, Daniel Bellanca, and Kathryn Dothage; and great grandchildren Isabella Bellanca and Jameson Bellanca.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Arthur A. Bickford Endowed Avian Residency Program Fund. Dr. Gregg Cutler established the fund in 2018 to provide support in perpetuity for avian residency students. Information on the avian residency endowment fund can be found at: https://give.ucdavis.edu/VRVN/123505

Memorial service will be held at Allen Mortuary on Saturday, August 19, 2023 at 1:00p.m.

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  1. chickendr88 says

    Dr. Bickford is the reason I went into poultry. I was living 7 hours away from home and him and Peggy treated me as one of their own. He was the reason I got into Purdue University Vet School. He told me later that he kept tabs on me while I was in school. It meant the world to me that he cared. I always enjoyed seeing him at the meetings and catching up on what he was doing. I will always be grateful for everything he did for me. – Kristi Scott (PVU ’96)

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