In Memoriam: Frank P. Sonnenberg

Title: In Memoriam: Frank P. Sonnenberg

Author: Dudley W. Bolyard

Publication: The Outcrop, March 2013, p. 24-25

MemFrank P. Sonnenberg, a longtime member of RMAG, passed away January 12, 2013. Born August 18, 1923 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Frank was an Eagle Scout, enlisted in the United States Marine Corps during World War II, serving in the Asia-Pacific theater and receiving the rank of lieutenant, and later earned B.A. and M.S. degrees in geology from t the University of Cincinnati.

While he was still a student, Frank began an amazing career in petroleum geology as Assistant Geologist with the United Fuel Gas Company. In 1949 he joined Amerada Petroleum Corporation as a geologist for the Billings, Montana District. Frank is well remembered for his association in 1951 with the No. 1 Iverson well, which was the first oil discovery in the U.S. portion of the Williston Basin. He remained in Billings until 1958, serving Gulf Oil Corporation as District Geologist and Herman and George R. Brown as Rocky Mountain Representative, and becoming President of the Billings Geological Society.

Frank was involved in both foreign and domestic exploration and development from 1958 until 1975. He served many companies, including Chaco (Tenneco), Union Texas, Monsanto and Murphy, in a variety of managerial capacities. In 1973 he became Vice President and Regional Manager in London for Champlin Petroleum Corporation, directing activities in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Frank returned to Denver with Champlin in 1975. In 1978 he became Rocky Mountain District Manager with Michigan-Wisconsin Pipeline Co. and later was elevated to Director of Exploration for that company in Houston. He returned to Denver in 1981 as Vice President of Natural Resources Corporation. In 1984 he became a consulting geologist.

He joined AAPG in 1948 and received the Pioneer Award in 2000. He chaired the DPA’s board of certification for several years, received its Distinguished Service Award in 1994, and served in the House of Delegates from 1988 until 1991. While in Singapore, Frank was a founder of the Southeast Asia Petroleum Exploration Society and became its first president. He was an active member of RMAG, serving on several committees and on the  Board of Directors as Counselor from 1998 to 1999. He also was a Fellow of the Geological Society of America and a member of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists and the Society of Economic Mineralogists and Paleontologists. Frank also published several professional papers concerning the Appalachian, Rocky Mountain, and Bolivia regions.

Fluent in Spanish, Frank always carried a small dictionary and notepad to increase his vocabulary. On trips to Mexico, he was quick to make friends with native people, who would share with him almost everything they knew about the local geography, culture, food and drink. He also had the ability to quickly understand the geology of places he had never seen before, and to appreciate how the archaeology and modern history  related to the geology.

Frank is survived by three sons: Stephen, a second generation petroleum geologist and past president and Honorary Member of both RMAG and AAPG, Golden, CO; Daniel, a landscape architect, Houston, TX; and David, CLU, CHFC, San Antonio, TX. Frank also  has one grandson, W. Case Sonnenberg, Landman, Golden, CO.