Nfld. & Labrador

Pioneering MUN archeologist Jim Tuck dies at 79

Hired by Memorial University in the late 1960s, Jim Tuck brought a community-based archeology approach to the province, says his former colleague and friend.

Tuck, who retired in 2005, is remembered for bringing a community-based archeology approach to N.L.

Barry Gaulton, left, and Jim Tuck at the Colony of Avalon at Ferryland, where Tuck spent the last 25 years of his career. (Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society/Facebook)

Jim Tuck may not have been a household name across the province but the archeologist, who died Friday at 79, played a significant role in helping Newfoundlanders and Labradorians learn more about the people who once lived here, says a former colleague and friend.

Tuck, the first archeology professor hired by Memorial University, worked at hundreds of archeological sites across the province, including Red Bay, Port au Choix and Ferryland.

"Pretty much everything I learned about archeology I learned from Jim," Barry Gaulton, an associate professor at Memorial University who worked with Tuck for 27 years, told The St. John's Morning Show.

Over the course of Tuck's long career in the province, which he began at MUN in 1967, he was named a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and was one of the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador's first recipients.

But despite the heights he reached in his career, Tuck, who died at his winter home on Martha's Vineyard, remained down to earth and modest, Gaulton said.

From left, Tuck, Marcie Madden, Priscilla Renouf, Tip Evans and Gerald Penney at an excavation at the Cow's Head site in the 1970s. (Newfoundland and Labrador Archaeological Society/Facebook)

"He was a great friend, a wonderful colleague," he said.

"I mean, I can't say enough about him. He was a wonderful person and a friend to so many here in the province."

'A true Newfoundlander'

Tuck, born in New York in 1940, came to MUN in 1967 and founded its archeology unit, training generations of the province's archeologists over his career, Gaulton said. 

He was also a pioneer who was one of the first archeologists in Canada to use community-based archeology, integrating communities with research being done in their area, Gaulton said. 

"He loved working with communities. He loved the people in those communities," he said, and the benefits of that work can now be seen at places like Ferryland, where Tuck spent the last 25 years of his career and was behind discoveries like the first coinage minted in what is now called Canada.

Tuck remained passionate and excited about his archeological work throughout his career, Gaulton said, and retired in 2005. But he had several other interests, he said, including gardening and woodworking.

Tuck is survived by his wife, four children and five grandchildren. There are plans to bring his ashes back to the province later this year, Gaulton said, and to hold a celebration of life at that time.

"He was a true Newfoundlander in the sense that he loved the people here, he loved the place," he said. 

"This is where he wants to come back."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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