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Joseph Cummins

Obituary of Joseph Edward Cummins

Joseph Edward Cummins, Emeritus Professor of Genetics, 82, of London, Ontario, passed away peacefully on Friday January 8, 2016 at Victoria Hospital with family and friends present after a lengthy and courageous battle with cancer. Born in Whitefish, Montana to Harold and Catherine Cummins, Joe earned his Bachelor of Science in Horticulture with the help of scholarship awards. He was awarded his PhD in Cell Biology from the University of Wisconsin in 1962, and his postdoctoral research was completed at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research in Wisconsin, and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. Prior to moving to London in 1972 to accept a faculty position at the University of Western Ontario, he taught genetics at Rutgers University and the University of Washington (Seattle). His research was in the area of cellular RNA and DNA in the cell cycle, in the 1970s and 80s his focus turned to the environment and the effects of pollution on genes. During his career he has been involved in a wide range of environmental issues related to mercury, asbestos, PCBs, pesticides, toxic waste, and genetic engineering. Professor Cummins is the author of more than 200 scientific and popular articles. At the University of Western Ontario, Joe was instrumental in starting and teaching a course on Environmental Toxicology, and he taught Advanced Genetics, Microbial Genetics, Human Genetics, Regulation of Gene Activity, and Cell Biology. In addition to teaching and research, Dr. Cummins dedicated much of his life and energy to environmental issues including the cleanup of Pottersburg Creek in Ontario as well as serving as an advisor to numerous environmental groups, including sitting on the board of Greenpeace. Dr. Cummins was well known and highly respected as a passionate advocate for mother earth. As a fearless and determined teacher, researcher and man of science Joe worked tirelessly to improve the quality of our water, air and crops and protect our planet from abuse. Many of his friends and colleagues knew him as “Mighty Joe Cummins” because of the passion and determination that he brought to his work and projects. Dr. Cummin's work is now done and our planet is a cleaner and better place to live thanks to his efforts and persistence. In the words of his nephew from Seattle he was a man of science with a heart for justice and equally brilliant, kind, courageous and empathetic. Joe’s hobbies included tinkering with computers and enjoying nature’s treasures through hiking and travel and he was an avid history buff. While in high school he distinguished himself as a championship wrestler and his opponents then and throughout his lifetime were no doubt overwhelmed by his competitive spirit. Joseph was a loving and proud father of his daughter Lili and is survived by Sisters Sonia, Polly, Dodi and Nora as well as many loving nieces and nephews living mostly in the Seattle-Tacoma area. Joe was predeceased by his brother Harold Jr. and by his beloved wife Katya. A memorial will be held at John T. Donohue Funeral Home, 362 Waterloo Street at King Street, on Sunday, January 17th. Visitation from 12:00 noon until the time of the memorial service at 1 o'clock. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to your favourite environmental group.


12:00 am - 1:00 pm
Sunday, January 17, 2016
John T. Donohue Funeral Home
362 Waterloo Street
London, Ontario, Canada