Last month, members, Board members and staff of The Trumpeter Swan Society were saddened to hear of the death of Harold Burgess. Harold served on the Society’s Board of Directors and as President of TTSS for two terms. He was recently honored by the Society as one of the first recipients of the TTSS George Melendez Wright Trumpeter Swan Conservation Award. A copy of his obituary follows:
Harold H, Burgess
Harold H. Burgess died Tuesday, March 13, 2012, in Weslaco, TX, at age 94. He was born in 1917 at Cedardale, Michigan. Survivors include his children Thomas, Mary and Barbara, son-in-law Terry, grandchildren David, Hannah, and Betsy, granddaughter-in-law Crystal. His wife Ruth; his parents Guy and Mary; his brothers Henry, Fred, Robert, Eugene, and James precede him in death.
After graduation from Deckerville High School, Harold served with the Civilian Conservation Corps in Upper Michigan. He graduated from Michigan State College with a Bachelor of Science in Forestry. In 1942, he became a superintendent at Firestone Rubber Plantation in Liberia, West Africa. While traveling through the Liberian hinterland, he met his future wife, Ruth Longstaff, at Ganta Mission.
Returning to Michigan State College, he finished his Masters in Zoology. After enlisting in the 8th Army Engineers, he married Ruth in December 1947 and served as a forestry adviser in Korea and later as an agriculture adviser in Japan.
In 1950 he began 30 years with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, managing four National Wildlife Refuges of the Missouri-Mississippi watershed in succession, completing his career at the Area Office in North Kansas City, Missouri. For a second 30 years after retirement, he volunteered at various nature sanctuaries, wildlife refuges, and state parks. Those in Texas included Laguna Atascosa NWR, Lower Rio Grande NWR, Santa Ana NWR, Valley Nature Center, and Estero Llano Grande State Park. He also took part in the Texas Breeding Bird Atlas, Elder Hostel programs, as well as both the Frontera and the Rio Grande Valley Audubon Societies. Harold received The Valley Nature Center’s “Outstanding Naturalist Award” for 2002.
Though interested in all birds, Harold considered himself an avian ecologist rather than an ornithologist. After initial work with pheasants in Michigan, his career with the US Fish and Wildlife Service allowed projects improving the habitat of specific waterfowl at various National Wildlife Refuges. At Upper Mississippi (WI) he worked with Wood Ducks; at Union Slough ( IA), Blue-Winged Teal; at Squaw Creek (MO), Snow Geese and Canada Geese; and at Lacreek (SD), Trumpeter Swans. Even in retirement on the Lower Rio Grande, he added another specialty: Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.
However, Harold had found his passion to be with Trumpeter Swans. Trumpeters had nearly gone extinct in the 48 states by the 1930s. The ensuing work of the Fish and Wildlife Service in preserving this nesting population, was extended by The Trumpeter Swan Society, whose mission is to restore the species to its previously existing breeding and migration ranges. After retirement in 1980 he volunteered with The Trumpeter Swan Society, serving on the board of directors and two terms as president.
In lieu of flowers, friends are invited to consider making a donation to or becoming members of The Trumpeter Swan Society. http://www.trumpeterswansociety.org The family will appreciate cards and reminiscences from Harold’s many friends. A memorial is planned later this spring and is open to the public. It will take place June 16, 2012, at 2 PM at The Valley Nature Center, 301 S. Border Ave, Weslaco, (956) 969-2475.