I met Bert shortly after we moved here in 2000. From the beginning, I was an admirer of his charm, his knowledge, his friendly spirit, and his sense of humor. I was also somewhat intimidated by him as I was not an avid birder—although I have appreciated birds for a long time. He influenced me to be more observant of wildlife and he enjoyed hearing about the latest sightings. Over the years, I learned he accepted and loved me for who I am—a lover of nature.
As a retired teacher, I volunteered for the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve starting when it first opened. I enjoyed helping create guidelines for giving programs. My own program entitled Prose, Poetry and the Preserve included works from various authors and of course I used a section from Bert’s Valley So Sweet. Visitors seemed to love the wry humor evoked in his words about trees. He was very pleased that I used his book and that his books were on the shelves of the Resource Center.
A highlight for me was when my husband and I took Bert to the Preserve not too long after it opened. He was impressed by the elegant simplicity of the Preserve Center—learning by experience not signage. My husband was able to push him in his wheelchair as far as the bridge; Bert shared my enthusiasm for the place. I wish we had taken him again.
Potlucks—a tradition of Meg and Bert’s. We enjoyed sharing many potlucks on holidays and on Bert’s birthday—his age was a secret for many years. When we were first celebrating the creation of Nature Mapping, the gathering was a potluck—of course. And that tradition continues.
As vice president of the Meg and Bert Raynes Wildlife Fund, I led our board meetings on Bert’s behalf. He would listen carefully and speak occasionally adding something meaningful and insightful to the discussion. But what I remember most is his dry wit. At least once during a meeting, he would make a comment that would make us all laugh; I miss the twinkle in his eye.
Bert’s love of nature and his desire to protect and preserve the wildlife of the Jackson Hole region was foremost in his thinking. He wanted science to be a major factor of decision making. I admired his craving for knowledge and how he read as much as possible about scientific discoveries.
He was always so thoughtful of others. He made sure he had holiday gifts for those close to him. He would call to check in if he hadn’t heard from us for a while and when we returned from trips, he always asked about our experiences. I miss our phone conversations which ended with goodbye and I love you.
Now when I notice wildlife, like the ospreys returning to the platform in Rafter J, I want to call and tell him—I miss him!!!
– Carol Schneebeck, May 2021
Photo credits: Carol Schneebeck