William Vail Allen passed away peacefully at his home in Eureka on March 14, 2021 after an eight-year battle with cancer. William was born to Royal Vergne & Mary Vail Wiseman on November 4, 1935 at Alta Bates hospital in Berkeley.

William lived in Berkeley for a number of years. In 1942, William moved with his mother and stepfather (David E. Allen Jr.) to Brookline, Massachusetts. David Allen was a Naval Officer and the family would make a number of moves during World War II. Once the war was over, the family settled in Palo Alto, California.

William attended Palo Alto elementary school and Jordan Junior High School, where he was valedictorian. After junior high, William attended Mountain View high school, where he developed an interest in science and mathematics. He went on to University of California Berkeley, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science & Masters degree in biology in 1957 and was admitted to the Phi Beta Kappa society. From Cal, William entered a PHD program at Stanford University, where he studied at the Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University in Pacific Grove. William received his PHD in biology in 1964.

While at Stanford, William met Sigrid Gussmann, a fellow Stanford student and the love of his life. They were married on June 30, 1962 in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California.

William performed his post doctoral work in Plymouth, England, where he studied marine life. He would spend a year in England and return to the Bay Area in 1965, when went to work at the NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, working on astro biology projects.

In the summer of 1966, William received a job offer from Humboldt State University to be a Biology professor. He taught biology, physiology and genetics until his retirement in 2002, at which time he became a professor emeritus. William enjoyed helping young motivated students reach their potential. He was a mentor to countless graduate students who would go on to be doctors, professors and scientists.

William enjoyed sports. He was an avid tennis and racquetball player and played in basketball leagues until he was fifty. He loved watching his grandson’s basketball and baseball games. He loved watching the Golden State Warriors, especially during the Steph Curry era. He was a big fan of the Cal Bears. He often spent summers working on construction projects on his Fickle Hill home. With the help of graduate students and his boys, he built greenhouses, decks, ponds and doubled the size of his house. He also enjoyed feeding his pet koi carp and taking care of his tropical fish.

William was preceded in death by his father Royal Vergne Wiseman, mother Mary Vail Allen, stepfather David E. Allen Jr. and brother David E. Allen III. He is survived by his wife Sigrid Allen, brother Matthew V. Allen (Charlotte), sons Erich Allen (Carrie) and Kevin Allen (Charise), and grandchildren William D. Allen, Benjamin Allen, Grace Allen, Daniel Allen and Isaac Allen.

The family would like to thank the many caregivers, nurses and doctors at St. Joseph who were kind and took wonderful care of William during his fight with cancer. Special thanks to Dr. Luther Cobb and the outstanding caregivers, social workers and nurses from Hospice of Humboldt.

In lieu of flowers the family asks that donations be made to Hospice of Humboldt. A celebration of William’s life will be scheduled for a time when it is safe to gather.


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