Burton John Hoyle passed away in early November 2020, just weeks from reaching his 101st birthday.  He is survived by three children, Joe and Glenn Hoyle and Pamela Lund, three grandchildren, Julie McGuffey, Karin Ballstadt and Dennis Hoyle, and 10 great-grandchildren.

Burton (Burt) was born in Saranac Lake, New York in 1919 and grew up in the Jamestown, New York area. He graduated from high school in 1938 and spent several years pursuing odd jobs before starting college in 1941.  He did not serve in WWII because of a childhood injury.  In 1944 he graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in horticulture. 

There was a war going on and jobs were scarce, so Burt applied to graduate schools.  The University of California, Davis, wrote that classes were closed but they did have a job opening in vegetable crops.  After Burt got to Davis, classes soon resumed with the end of the war, and he graduated in 1946 with an MS in Vegetable Crops. That same year he also married True Dolson.

As 1946 drew to a close Burt took a job with the University of California Cooperative Extension system to pioneer the Agricultural Experimental Field Station in Tulelake, now known as the Intermountain Research and Extension Center (IREC). From 1947 to 1965 Burt’s research and work shaped many of the crops still grown in the Tulelake basin today including potatoes, barley, peppermint and strawberries.  However, his big winner was the introduction of horseradish as a cash crop.  In 1983 he was featured in an NBC nationally broadcast news show as the “Godfather of Horseradish.”

In 1965 Burt relocated to Fresno where he worked as a vegetable crops specialist at the University of California’s Five-Points station.  Two major publications from his many projects were A Guide to Commercial Vegetable Production (1970), Curley Top Identification Handbook (1977) [Curly top is a plant disease]. His work on “aggresizing” [a process for making the soil optimum for successful seed growth], for which he received a patent, led to widespread recognition in the agricultural research community.

Burt and True were active in the First Presbyterian Church in Fresno.  One of the ways they lived out their faith was by opening their home to many foreign students.  Over a period of more than ten years they hosted a number of Chinese, African and Middle Eastern students. Their involvement with these students was a ministry as they helped them with practical matters, and also spent hours in counseling them about their lives. 

Burt retired in 1983 and he and True relocated to Humboldt County.  He enjoyed his friends and taking pictures of beautiful Humboldt scenery.  He travelled up and down the coast shooting pictures; then with his scanner and Adobe Photoshop, Burt explored the creative expressions of the visual, displaying some of his photos at local art shows.  He and True were very involved with the Arcata Presbyterian Church and participated in many community activities.  Burt was a lifelong Rotarian, receiving the Paul Harris Fellow Distinction.  Burt and True also engaged in developing housing on land in Arcata which True had inherited from her family. 

True Dolson Hoyle passed away in 2005, and Burt married MaryAlice Comstock in 2006.  MaryAlice preceded Burt in death on September 16, 2020.  She was 91 years old.

Burt was blessed by health, mental clarity and mobility throughout his life.  He was known for his brilliant thinking and ever-present curiosity.  During his final years he was working on a book on statistical thinking and re-analyzing data from his field crop experiments he had collected more than 50 years ago.  And even in his last days his caretakers commented on his intellectual curiosity, his smile and sense of humor.

His three children remember the significant impact Burt had on their lives, but more importantly his love and concern for them, their families, and for the large number of people whom Burt influenced


The obituary above was submitted on behalf of Burt’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here.