About a year ago I had lunch with Doug Pressel and his wife Catherine Fish at the Shadetree Restaurant. I’d been invited to lunch by local environmental activist Jessica Rios to talk about Sen. Barbara Boxer’s Wild Heritage Act. I learned during the course of that lunch that Pressel had worked for years as an advertising guru for Proctor & Gamble but had shuffled off the three-piece-suit life he’d led back east and moved to Arizona to get closer to nature. Turns out I didn’t know the half of it.
The following information comes courtesy of Pressel’s father by way of Fish: Pressel, born and raised in Chicago, earned an MBA degree with honors with a major in International Business Studies from UCLA. Following that he worked for Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati as brand manager and then advanced to advertising manager positions in Italy, Venezuela and Japan. During this time, he served in the U.S. Army Intelligence Reserves for five years. Then, after 14 years at P&G, Pressel quit and moved to Bisbee, Ariz., to pursue, in his words, a life as an “authentic person,” a role he maintained for the next 20 years. In Arizona he met and married Fish. They had a child, Kirsten, and then moved to Chico, where Pressel taught business courses at Chico State University. All the while he was interested in conservation and environmental issues. Besides getting involved in the Wild Heritage Act, he was also a player in the successful drive by citizen activists to get the city to adopt an alternative plan to expand Manzanita Avenue where it runs through Bidwell Park. As Pressel’s father wrote: “After he left corporate life, Doug sought meaningful work where he could make a contribution. His passion was protecting giant redwoods and the wild and natural places that meant so much to him. This is why this ex-Proctor & Gamble advertising executive was so passionate about the Wild Heritage Act. He was so excited by the adventure of living his new authentic life….and was still delighted to find himself in love with wilderness and nature and Chico and its fascinating people.”
On Dec. 3, Pressel suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage while at the Sacramento airport waiting for a flight to Chicago. He died the next day, surrounded by his family. Pressel was 57. In his will, Fish said, Pressel requested, "Upon my death, I wish to be cremated and my ashes to be dispersed in the Chiricahua Mountains. I wish my funeral to be an expression of my acquaintances’ true emotional response to my death. I do not look forward to death and I do not welcome it. If I should become incapacitated and not expected to resume normal human function, I wish to be allowed to die from natural causes. I do not wish for heroic medical intervention to keep me alive, if there is not a reasonable chance that I could regain healthy human function." Fish writes: "His wishes were honored in Bisbee on Dec. 7, where about 150 friends and family honored his life with stories and songs then spread his ashes in Doug’s favorite Chiricahua wilderness places where we had camped so often with the children." There will be another celebration of his life this Saturday, Dec. 21—Winter Solstice—at Cedar Grove in Bidwell Park at 1 p.m.