Kent Grimmett Budge: A Great Friend, A Bright Intellect

Kent Budge tracking giant dinosaurs. Photo Courtesy Gary Stradling

Kent Budge, far right, volunteering at the Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology at Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu with Gretchen Gurtler and Gary Stradling. Photo Courtesy Gary Stradling.

White Rock

I am deeply saddened by Kent Grimmett Budge’s early departure from mortality. We are very good friends. We shared numerous field trips—weekends to weeks long—to study southwest geology, to search for interesting rocks and fossils. We also share a love for God and people, especially family. 

This was certainly not the outcome we expected, though we joked about the possibility the last time I sat with him. We kidded about heading over to the other side and what to expect. We both expected him to survive his injuries and treatments and to have many productive years yet.

Over the course of our adventures together, we have extensively discussed life and death, the promise of a resurrection, the implications of global human resurrection, as well as the lives and deaths of the multitude of other terrestrial beings whose fossilized remains we have come across in our travels. The family of all terrestrial life as a fully-connected tree made up of a many-branched stem is amazing to us. 

We would hold a fossilized brachiopod in our hand and say, “Well, little buddy. What did you come here to learn? And when did I learn that thing myself?” Kent and I debated the meaning and purpose of life, its complexity, and the role of life in terraforming this planet. We examined the origin and nature of intelligence, the nature of that spark of life, invisible to science, but present in every living cell. We thought about whether non-human beings, who had lived and died, had any pre-mortal existence, or existence post-death. We debated how even the most minute living beings, like the mosquito larvae, have instilled in them prior to birth the processes and understanding that enable their success in diverse hostile environments, and many such things. We asked, “If DNA carry blueprints of the structures of life, then where does the software controlling life processes, situation recognition, awareness, and decision making come from?”  Because of a shared understanding of computational science, we had critical doubts of the popular extrapolations of computer-based “artificial” intelligence. 

I am confident that Kent is having another adventure now, and that the challenges of his future are different from the challenges of his past. I do not know how much of intelligence and inquisitiveness are incorporated in the material in our cranium, and how much is enabled in some other manner. What is our spirit and how does it work with our bodies? What resides in our spirit after death? What did our spirit bring to our bodies at inception? 

Kent was and is still (becauseI expect such intrinsic attributes to continue after death) very insightful, inquisitive, and disciplined. He has a great sense of humor, and in spite of that, produced some pretty bad puns. However, he is a pun piker compared to my son Alden, also a close friend and hiking companion. 

Kent was a disciplined person, at a heroic level. Some years ago, when he learned that he was diabetic (Type II), he immediately incorporated the advice of his doctor in limiting the sugars in his diet and significantly increasing his exercise to long daily walks and long weekend hikes. His subsequent persistence in wearing baggy clothes was a badge of pride for him, though I could not get him to confess to it.  

Hiking for health drove his interest in geology. As he made regular hikes, his inquisitive nature required him to understand what he was seeing in the naked terrain of New Mexico. His academic discipline and technical insight resulted in the deep understanding he gained in geology and paleontology. 

Kent was a conservative patriot. He read extensively and was willing and able to debate politics. He did not favor extremism and was critical of politicians who manipulated the weak and needy. He served on the Los Alamos County Planning and Zoning Commission and on the White Rock Redevelopment committee. He had considered running for County Council this election cycle, but his accident prevented it. 

Kent has a powerful understanding of the scriptures and the doctrines of the restored Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He loved the Bible and the Book of Mormon and additional modern scripture. We debated and discussed many aspects of science history and church history, theology and science, and the interface between them. This included such challenging topics as the nature and process of revelation, the experiences of the Biblical prophets, of Jesus Christ the Savior, and of the prophet Joseph Smith, the process of the translation of the Book of Mormon, the unfolding of the priesthood, the nature and purpose of the LDS temple ordinances, etc.  

His understanding of astrophysics, geology, paleontology, and chemistry all outstrip my own, and he would patiently explain aspects that were relevant to whatever we were looking at in the field. Chemistry was particularly useful in teaching me mineralogy. 

Kent was insightful, articulate, diligent, meticulous, and hardworking. When we returned from a trip or outing, he sat down and composed a trip report and posted it to his Wanderlusting blog within a day or so. He was proud of his book about the Jemez Mountains, Supervolcano: a Geologic History of the Jemez , and said he had a deal in play to publish it. He was working to significantly reduce the number of images in the online version to be suitable for a paper publication. I hope his book is published, and that his website, etc. are kept alive. 

Kent loved his family and often talked to me about his concerns and cares for them. We will have to move forward without him. Such is the nature of death, and of survivors. This will certainly provide them with additional opportunities for growth. I will continue to thrive on the experiences I have had with Kent, the knowledge I have gained, the doors he has opened to me in geology and paleontology. And I look forward to the time we will share in the future, exploring other vistas.