James C. Nofziger, a well-known animal nutritionist who had ties to the Reagan administration and worked on a federal animal preservation committee, has died. He was 78.
The longtime San Fernando Valley resident, who helped develop animal feed and was appointed to the Marine Mammal Commission in 1981, died Feb. 18 in his sleep. Nofziger had recently undergone surgery for a brain tumor, family members said.
Nofziger's interest in animals began when he was a child in Bakersfield, where his family raised chickens and the occasional pig or cow. His fascination continued during his undergraduate studies at UCLA, where he majored in zoology.
His education was interrupted by World War II, during which he served in the Army. In 1945 at the Battle of the Rhineland, he was badly wounded by shrapnel and his aorta was nearly severed.
While it took Nofziger almost two and a half years to recover from his injuries in various hospitals throughout the United States, his wounds changed his perspective.
"He always said every day after that was a gift," said his eldest daughter, Chris Dahmen of Sacramento.
After the war, Nofziger continued his education at UCLA and went on to Washington State University, where he earned master's and doctoral degrees in animal science.
After earning his doctorate in 1962, Nofziger taught at Washington State from 1959 to 1961 before opening his own business, where he specialized in creating better animal feeds.
Until that time, most cattle feed consisted of grass and low-protein grains. By introducing ingredients high in amino acids and such proteins as soybeans, canola and cotton seed, Nofziger was able to speed up cattle growth and make feed cheaper, said Donald MacCallum, a professor of anatomy and cell biology at the University of Michigan Medical School, who also served on the Marine Mammal Commission.
Nofziger was appointed to the commission in 1981, during Reagan's first term. Some believed that his appointment was a political move, since Nofziger's younger brother Lyn was one of Reagan's chief political advisors, and feared that the three-member commission would stray from its stated goal of monitoring projects that could threaten ocean mammals.
Though he said many people thought Nofziger was not up to the task, "I don't think it bothered him in the least," said John Twiss, the executive director of the commission from 1981 to 2000.
"He was a well-rounded scientist who did a great deal to further the conservation of a number of species," Twiss said.
Nofziger was usually an independent commissioner who preferred to do his own research, Twiss said. While researching the situation of California sea otters, he flew through the animal's entire range and spent much time off the coast in boats, studying otters.
Nofziger was not reappointed to the commission in 1984 but retained many clients and continued to work and study until his last days, family members said.
In addition to his brother, Lyn, Nofziger is survived by his wife Elizabeth; two daughters, Dahmen and Elizabeth Elliott of Windsor, Colo.; and seven grandchildren.
Funeral services will be held today at 1 p.m. at the Reardon Simi Valley Mortuary Chapel in Simi Valley with concluding services at Oakwood Memorial Park in Chatsworth.
The family has asked that any memorial donations be given to the Dr. James C. Nofziger Scholarship Fund c/o Reardon Simi Valley Mortuary, 2636 Sycamore Drive, Simi Valley, CA 93065.