Cover photo for Heather Lazrus's Obituary
Heather Lazrus Profile Photo

Heather Lazrus

October 27, 1979 — February 26, 2023

Heather MacAulay Lazrus died in her home lovingly embraced by family and good friends on
Sunday evening the 26th of February. She lay calmly while farewells and tributes flowed in from
all over the world. Heather was a beloved mother to Forrest Lazrus Kehoe (aged 8) and wife to
Ken Kehoe, an adored daughter to Suzanne MacAulay and Allan Lazrus, and a treasured sister,
aunt, niece, and friend to many.

Heather was born in Denver, Colorado, on October 27, 1979, under a full moon that was quickly
obscured by the first severe blizzard of the season. That same night the Zuñi War Gods were
repatriated from Denver’s Museum of Natural History to their spiritual home in New Mexico.
Perhaps this combination of meteorology and anthropology helped shape the course of
Heather’s career as an environmental anthropologist investigating the social and cultural
impacts of weather and the changing climate on global communities.

Heather grew up in the forests and meadows around Magnolia Road until her family moved to
New Zealand for a decade. She attended Waldorf and Montessori schools in Boulder, Colorado,
and finished her elementary education at Baseline Middle School before heading to the
Southern Hemisphere. Heather graduated from Whanganui High School in New Zealand. She
returned to the United States briefly to attend Bennington College in Vermont, where she was
introduced to the interdisciplinary field of environmental studies. Her BA with Honours degree
was achieved at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. Heather earned her Ph.D. in
anthropology with an emphasis on environmental anthropology from the University of
Washington in 2009.

Heather’s perpetual position as a social scientist among groups of physicists, meteorologists,
modelers, and atmospheric chemists began with a postdoctoral appointment at the National
Weather Center in Oklahoma, the nexus of tornado research. It was there that she initially
pursued her interdisciplinary and collaborative approach to extreme weather and climate
change research focusing on the “cultural mechanisms through which all weather and climate
risks are perceived, experienced, and addressed” in the United States, New Zealand, and in
Tuvalu, a Pacific Nation State, where she did her dissertation research.

Heather joined the Mesoscale and Microscale Meteorology Laboratory at the National Center
for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in 2011. As a Project Scientist, Heather continued to involve
diverse disciplines in her investigations of risk perceptions related to extreme weather and
climate change affecting some of the most at-risk populations on the planet. Respect and
compassion toward others were the hallmarks of Heather’s work and life, which motivated her
to co-found and co-direct the Rising Voices Center for Indigenous and Earth Sciences. According
to an announcement from NCAR, her ability to work sensitively and collaboratively with
Indigenous communities, “helped Rising Voices thrive and ultimately resulted in the successful
$20 million funding of the Rising Voices, Changing Coasts Hub. This project, led by Haskell
Indian Nations University, serves as a trailblazing example of convergence science centering
Indigenous sciences and practices.”

In the words of other colleagues and friends expressed in the last few days, “Heather was a
courageous and kind leader who valued relationships and people above all else, and in doing so
showed us all a gentler, kinder, and deeply effective way of doing science.” “Heather has
inspired so many early-career scientists who will carry her beautiful legacy forward — guided
not only by her research and community building but also by the values that led her work.
Heather taught us that leadership can be kind, creative, caring and inclusive.” And this
beautifully expressed homage from Heather’s co-Director of Rising Voices, “Heather selflessly,
and with her elegance and grace, created spaces and places for so many who were previously
silenced and excluded within the boundaries of non-Indigenous science and its institutions. It’s
difficult to grasp how far her reach is because she centered others and not herself in this work.”
Heather was a scholar and scientist, but above all else she was a loving mother, wife, daughter,
sister, aunt, niece, and friend. Those who knew her describe the warmth, kindness, and
thoughtfulness that she emanated, her inquisitive attitude and unwavering commitment to
following her passions, and her courage, strength, grace, and dignity. She was “a petite
invocation of mystical grace and meditative quiet,” and a light in all our lives. Her presence
helped to sustain us and offered us resilience at difficult times in our lives. Even in the last
months of her life, she found the space to offer words of peace and empathy to others as they
faced their own difficulties. She was a uniquely beautiful person. Our deeds in life are unique
because our lives are unique, and Heather’s life was singular. She was born with celestial and
cultural significance and as she passed, the Northern Lights stretched all the way to Colorado to
guide her way.

In lieu of flowers or other gifts, donations should go to her son Forrest’s 529 education fund.
For direct donation to Forrest’s fund using banking routing number and account number ($15
website minimum, US banks only), please go to https://www.ugift529.com/ and enter Forrest’s
Ugift code: K5T-B7K. To donate using a credit card, Google Pay, or Paypal, please go to
https://www.gofundme.com/f/forrest-lazrus-kehoes-education-fund

A Celebration of Life for Heather will be held in the Boulder area on Saturday, July 22, 2023. If
you would like to be contacted with further information about this event, please complete this
form: https://tinyurl.com/6fdny24s
To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Heather Lazrus, please visit our flower store.

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