The Birdnerds owe our existence in some small way to Connie's oldest sister, Donna Ross who passed away recently. Donna's love of nature and love of teaching influenced Connie's childhood, career choice, and helped foster her interest in the natural world. Without that, who knows, maybe Connie and I would never have begun hiking or birdwatching together.
Donna was a true teacher from a very early age. This became evident at the church service on Saturday when the pastor asked people to say a few words about Donna. One by one, people came to the microphone and said the same thing - Donna's intelligence, love of nature, and ability to teach others touched them in a special way. Donna taught me about nature too when we were hiking together at the cabin or just talking at Christmas dinner. In fact, she taught a group of kids about desert life on the day that she passed away.
She was only 62 years old when she was taken from us. Too young.
People like Donna and her untimely passing make me want to get out and experience life at an even more fevered pace. The experience also reinforces upon me that we all need to share the natural world with others - kids, neighbors, coworkers, whoever - and teach them about all types of nature from bugs to flowers to birds. I will keep Donna's example in my mind going forward and hope that you do the same.
In that spirit, I took the opportunity to go after a life bird on Saturday in the midst of the funeral services. Donna's ashes are being buried at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery where her husband, a Vietnam Vet, has a plot. As fate would have it, Redheads (ducks) have been seen over the past week at Memorial Lake which is across the street from the cemetery. After the church service and luncheon, I made a beeline for the lake and was treated to 12 Redheads mixed in with the other waterfowl. Is that wrong? Maybe, but I like to think Donna would have wanted me to see those ducks.